December 2012

December 2 – Port Arthur to Dunalley 39.78 klms, Avg speed 15.5 kph, Cycling time 2.33 hrs; Total kms 31,465

Managed to avoid the big hill out of Eaglehawk Neck, did detour along Pirates Bay Road, seemed not as steep & ended up at top of hill with magnificent views back to the Tasman Arch cliffs.  Someone told us there were the biggest cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere.  Return camp to Dunalley Pub & a catch up with their friendly magpie, Maggie.  Dozed in the warm sun listening to the cricket, it’s not often we “do nothing” so it was a real treat for us to be lazy bums all afternoon.  Like the day before the winds were REALLY strong, lucky for us they were mostly in our favour.

December 3 – Dunalley to Richmond 47 klms, Avg speed 12.2 kph, Cycling time 3.51 hrs; Total kms 31,512

Said goodbye to Maggie, what a cutie, & avoided the main road to Richmond by taking the scenic, coastal road via Dodges Ferry & Sorrel.  Cute shacks overlooking Frederick Henry Bay, had visions of living in Hobart & escaping here at the weekends, it’s so close, only 50 klms away.  A really slow average today, what with these hills & blustery head winds we both found it tough.  No fast ride down the hill into Richmond,  the full force of the headwinds really held you back & knocked you about, scary stuff.  Richmond is that cute, historic picture-perfect town on the banks of the Coal River home to Australia’s oldest bridge.  It’s a bit twee for us and not surprisingly didn’t dish up a decent cuppa.  The camp kitchen at the Caravan Park was filthy and the park itself unloved, what a pity, with views of rolling hills & vineyards & a stroll into town it could be a great place to stay.  We stayed for 2 nights & made use of the camp kitchen avoiding the rain & freezing conditions outside, at 2.00pm the temp was 8C, ridiculous!December 5 – Richmond to Hobart 31 klms, Avg speed 13.3 kph, Cycling time 2.20 hrs; Total kms 31,543

Not too stressful getting into Hobart as picked up the cycle way about 7 klms out.  Stayed at The Pickled Frog backpackers for a couple of nights, friendly staff but the place was pretty grotty and needed a good clean.  Big plus was its central location so could explore & search for a decent cuppa.  Tried 3 different cafes, none a favourite so will continue searching when we return over the Xmas break.

December 7 – Hobart to Snug 36.38 klms, Avg speed 13.6 kph, Cycling time 2.39 hrs; Total kms 31,580

Pretty easy getting out of Hobart too, very scenic riding past the uni along the foreshore & good cycling path via Taroona.  Up & down we peddled along the coast via Margate to Snug.  They don’t drink coffee in this part of the world so we fired up the little red devil at Snug & just gazed at the dazzling waters in front of us.  The Snug Caravan Park had to be located in one of the most picturesque spots we’ve camped at for ages, small wooden boats bobbing on the waters of NW Bay being overlooked by the hills of Howden.  Weather wise it was perfect too, sunny & hardly any wind, I could have stayed a week but Cygnet was calling, winds better tomorrow than the following day.

December 8 – Snug to Cygnet 55.15 klms, Avg speed 13.1 kph, Cycling time 4.11 hrs; Total kms 31,635

For the first time since being in Tassie (4 months) it was warm enough to sit outside & have brekkie & so we did.  Probably too hot to eat porridge but we haven’t made the brave move yet to move over to weetbix & fruit, it’s been too cold.  Reluctantly we packed up & for the next 4 hours rode along the winding coast being dazzled by more turquoise waters, gosh the Huon Valley is pretty, counted a dozen or so houses where we could live & especially liked Woodbridge.  Years ago we caught the ferry from Hobart and had a memorable lunch at Peppermint Bay at Woodbridge, we waved as we rode past.  Back then Greg declared he could live at Bruny Island, since being exposed to a Tassie winter he’s definitely changed his mind.  Mid morning we stopped at Gordon Reserve for peanut butter sarnies & a little red devil cuppa.  What a great spot to camp & fish & cheap too, it’s on our list to stay on our next trip to Tassie.  Boy, these Tassie hills are just relentless especially a big one close to Cygnet, we struggle to understand why we’re finding them so hard, you’d think by now we’d have got use to them.  While at Cygnet we’re going to post our winter gear back to Robin as wont need it anymore, hopefully that’ll lighten our loads a bit.  Having lunch in a lovely park in Cygnet we met Mike, another tourer resting from the hot weather, Greg helped him fix his chain & then we chatted more as we all stayed at the Cygnet Caravan Park, what a beaut spot, filled with overseas backpackers staying for the cherry season.  It doesn’t take long to slip into the easy rhythm of Cygnet life, the centre of fruit growing in the Huon Valley where vibrant apple, cherry & berry orchards line the hills.  The country township is popular with artists & musicians and it’s where Matthew Evans now lives, his popular TV series “Gourmet Farmer” being set here, thanks in part to Matthew, Cygnet is now a foodies treasure trove.

December 11 – Cygnet to Franklin 25.91 klms, Avg speed 15.2 kph, Cycling time 1.42 hrs; Total kms 31,661

Best riding, scenically, through the Huon today although dam it, it’s all just so beautiful, a valley of sunshine & mists, of fruitful orchards & rich soils, of riverside settlements & towns on the forest fringe, it is full of surprises.  It’s a foodies paradise with sweet summer berries, crisp autumn apples, full flavoured wines  & salmon & shellfish.  It’s a creative place too with galleries & studios tucked away in cute timber houses & some showcasing their wares outside, saw a fantastic life size wire frame horse today, looked like he needed a home.  The orchard signs were out today selling apples, pears, strawberries, & raspberries & soon the cherrys can be added as well.  Had a cuppa in Huonville, an apple town on the banks of the river then headed 7 klms south to our camp spot in Franklin, right beside the Huon River.  It’s a council owned site with loos & drinking water but no showers so another “top & tail” wash in the tent.  We found out later from the Ranger that we could have had a shower across the road at the pub, but already felt pretty clean.  For $10 per camp site it has to be one of the prettiest  spots to camp in the Huon with black swans gliding by & cute wooden boats bobbling on the river, the money raised goes towards the restoration of The Palais Theatre, a wonderful old building in the town.  Not only does Franklin have an internationally known 2000-metre rowing course it’s also where you’ll find tradionally-built wooden boats.  Didn’t do much in the afternoon, just sat in the sun relaxing & sent some Xmas cards to the UK, the evening was topped off with a Wellsy spag bol made the night before, over all it was just a lovely day.  You forget when you camp at an unpowered place like today that someone will always fire up the generator which instantly kills the peace & quiet.  Just for one night can’t they resist watching “Deal or No Deal” or better still why don’t they go & stay where there is power.  The golden rule seems to be that all generators go off at 8pm, thankfully the offending vehicle killed the noise an hour earlier!

December 12 – Franklin to Dover 46.22 klms, Avg speed 14.9 kph, Cycling time 3.06 hrs; Total kms 31,707

After a cuppa at Geeveston, proudly calling itself “Tasmania’s Forest Town” we headed to Dover via the scenic route just south of Geeveston.  From Surges Bay it took in some wonderful elevated views over the mouth of the Huon River and D’Entrecasteaux Channel also including a close up glimpse of salmon farm operations.  Entering picturesque Port Esperance with its three islands (Hope, Faith & Charity) the majestic Adamson’s Peak provided a dramatic backdrop to the town of Dover, est. 1845 and once a convict probation station.  It’s now a popular seaside destination, the main industries being tourism, aquaculture, fishing, orcharding & forestry.

December 13 – Dover to Southport 26.27 klms, Avg speed 14.6 kph, Cycling time 1.47 hrs; Total kms 31,734

“Why don’t we catch the bus to Southport & then we can have 2 more nights in Dover so can have a bit of a rest?” I suggested, thought it was a brilliant idea but as we’d already packed up our charges heard mutterings of “you’ve gone soft, we’ve already decided to stay at Southport etc etc”.  Bummer, didn’t win that one but in the end had one of our flattest rides riding through some magnificent forests.  Mother nature is at her most spectacular in this part of Tasmania—dazzling dolomite caves, thermal springs, deep blue waters, white beaches, cool fresh rainforests & golden sunsets.  Southport’s coast is lined with shacks commanding wonderful views of the Channel & Southern Ocean & today the people of this seaside town harvest the cold, clean waters catching the freshest oysters, mussels, succulent crayfish & salmon.  It’s a pretty spot with the Southport Hotel serving the community as the pub/motel/post office/takeaway/general store & caravan park.  It was a great caravan park, lots of green grass overshadowed by magnificent gums & filled with the sounds of happy birds, we were the only campers there too, perfect!  Talking of campers, we met a strange family in the Dover camp kitchen, most travellers ask each other the usual travel Qs & chat away but not this family who spoke in quiet whispers & obviously didn’t want to engage in any conversation with anybody else.  On retreating to their camp site after dinner the father commented to Greg that he found his music depressing.  Greg had a bit of fun & said “ I’m recovering from chronic depression, but I’m on medication and I’m rfecovering well thank you “ in other words “F’ off”, needless to say we were totally ignored the next morning including my “Good Morning” to the said male, luckily people like this are rare.

December 14 – Southport to Dover 19.10 klms, Avg speed 14.9 kph, Cycling time 1.16 hrs; Total kms 31,753

It was pretty cold during the night but it was lovely riding back to Dover in the cool of the morning &, except for the first 3 klms, most of it was downhill.  So back to the Dover Caravan Park, we really like this one too surrounded by green hills, forests & grazing cattle & the camp kitchen even has comfy chairs to sit on, luxury.  It’s a bit expensive at $25 per night unpowered & if you want a powered night it’ll cost you an extra $10 which seems ridiculous but charge they do because they can.  We had one of the best cup of coffees in Dover at the Old Post Office Cafe cum Restaurant, great venue & service & the food looked delicious so we’re going back tonight for dinner.

December 15 – Dover to Port Huon 29.71 klms, Avg speed 14.7 kph, Cycling time 2.01 hrs; Total kms 31,783

Grrrrr.. heavy raindrops on the tent woke us, today of all days when the tent’s going to be packed away for 2 weeks.  Not only is a wet tent heavier for Greg to carry he’ll now have to unpack it somewhere over the next 2 days before our hostel stay in Hobart.  Finally the rain stopped mid morning & we left the shelter of the camp kitchen, a late start for us.  Instead of going back on the scenic route via Surveyors Bay we just kept to the main road, being a Saturday it was pretty quiet & just as scenically beautiful as the other road albeit 10 klms shorter.  We stayed with Carolyn, a friend from the mainland who moved to Port Huon recently & kindly invited us to stay with her.  One word to describe her home “WOW”, the sort of home you dream of owning with magnificent views from the lounge room of the Huon River, where half a dozen yachts swung of their moorings in the sheltered cove nearby.  It was great to catch up with her, watch the antics of terrier Scout & timid poodle Ollie, devour a delicious roast lamb dinner, superb local cherries all washed down with a glass of bubbles & glasses of wine.  A comfy bed & own en-suite spoilt us too, needless to say we slept like babies.

December 16 – Port Huon to Huonville 15.71 klms, Avg speed 19.2 kph, Cycling time 0.49 hrs; Total kms 31,798

Waving goodbye to Carolyn, Scout & Ollie we arrived at our next destination, The Grand Hotel at Huonville, in under an hour, perfect.  The Grand’s an immaculately kept old gal and for $60 pn, including a light breakfast, had a clean & comfortable albeit dated room overlooking the river.  Greg dashed across the road to pitch & dry the tent when it poured with rain again, after an hour’s mucking about he finally got it dry.  Our last day’s riding in Tasmania tomorrow heading for Hobart, I’ll be steep & I’m doubting myself I’ll be able to tackle the hills.  My positive riding buddy thinks I’m being silly considering the hills we’ve climbed over the past 8 weeks, we’ll see .......

December 17 – Huonville to Hobart 37.33 klms, Avg speed 12.1 kph, Cycling time 3.03 hrs; Total kms 31,835

It’s supposed to be summer in Tassie but there’s frequent days when it’s rainy, cloudy & cold like this morning.  It was a morning of rain, sun, rain, sun so cycle jacket on, off, on, off, drives you mad sometimes.  Leaving the fruit & grazing areas of Huonville  we cycled into mountain rain forest via Longley & into the very pretty outer Hobart SW suburbs of Neika & Fern Tree (aptly named) skirting around the lower rises of Mount Wellington.  The views from Neika ( altitude 385m) down to Kingston &  Ralphs Bay were stunning, sparkling away in the distance.  I didn’t find the ride today hard, my riding buddy was right, I’ve conquered many Tassie hills over the past few months and today’s were no harder.  Best part of today’s ride was the final 9 klms all downhill and straight to the Hobart Hostel, our accommodation for the next 10 days. 

So today ends our cycle trip around Tassie after being here for 4 months & covering 2127 klms.  We shall enjoy the silly season here in Hobart before catching the ferry back to Melbourne on 27th December 2012.

 

To all our family and friends—wishing you all the jingly, jolly joys & Christmas & happiest of New Years!

 

December 28 – Port Melbourne to Bacchus Marsh 73.38 klms, Avg speed 15.8 kph, Cycling time 4.38 hrs; Total kms 31,908

It’s official, my riding partner, Ol’ Alberto is a drug cheat & terrorist requiring a full body cavity search when boarding the ferry back to Melbourne.  All to do with the possibility we might be carrying a fuel bottle and/or fuel which apparently is a big NO NO on the ship.  When the disagreeable Head of Security discovered our fuel bottle wasn’t filled with water (just to be on the safe side) it was confiscated & a full search ordered.  It was all so silly including the chaos trying to get off the ship the next day when we were surrounded by the hundreds of cars trying to get on.  After the frustration of retrieving our confiscated fuel bottle we rode straight to 7AM for a strong coffee fix, our favourite cafe in Port Melbourne.  After that getting out of Melbourne was surprisingly easy—ferry over to Williamstown, bike path to Altona passing industrial and gross housing estates & onto Bacchus Marsh riding through rural but extremely dry countryside.  It was blissfully quiet & flat, after the hills of Tassie & 10 days off the bikes in Hobart we really, really enjoyed today’s ride.  Being only an hour away from Melbourne, Bacchus Marsh (pop 15,600) is commuter territory, it was nicer than we’d anticipated & lies in a rich and fertile valley that consists of orchards, market gardens and pastoral fields. The town has a long history, dating back to just before gold was discovered in nearby Ballarat during the mid 1850s.

December 30 – Bacchus Marsh to Ballarat 66.95 klms, Avg speed 14.8 kph, Cycling time 4.29 hrs; Total kms 31,975

Leaving Bacchus Marsh we think we rode to the top of The Great Dividing Range, well it was steep what ever it was but gorgeous land views from the top looking back over Werribee Gorge.  The Great Dividing Trail stretches along the top of the Great Dividing Range between Bendigo, Ballarat, Daylesford and Bacchus Marsh allowing walkers the time to savour central Victoria’s unique combination of gold rush heritage and its natural beauty, would be a great walk to do one day.  It’s so good to be back in the countryside, stopped for coffee at the Ballan Bakery, probably one of the best coffees we’ve had from a bakery then a bit further on stopped in a bus shelter at Gordon for lunch.  Today’s ride seemed to take us ages, still trying to figure out why, wasn’t hilly so who knows why but we both struggled.  We rode parallel to the railway line, beautifully quiet on the back roads & hardly any cars.  We’re in the Ballarat for 5 days, it’s Victoria's third largest city with a population of 100,000 people.  The city has enjoyed a rich and prosperous heritage thanks to the Gold Rush which began in 1851, these days, long after the gold has run out, the city retains much of its rich gold heritage in the form of opulent buildings.  We’re in the closest caravan park to the city which declares itself to be a “family park”, not a favourite spot to be in school holidays but we’ve lucked out & have got a great camping spot.  And .... the champagne is chilling to welcome in the New Year!