Time marches on so quickly. Nearly a year has gone by since we left Portland for our world bicycle adventure. Although we are not done riding yet, we are back on home soil. We have met so many wonderful people along the way. And Australia was no different.
We did not have much time in Australia and had to make the difficult choice of where to ride. In case you haven’t noticed, Australia is a vast continent. We chose to focus on Tasmania for riding and then to make short visits to Melbourne and Sydney as part of the journey home.
We spent three weeks on our bicycles in Tasmania – which, as everyone rightly warned us, was hilly. Although, there were not any significantly high mountains, there were lots of undulating hills. There certainly was not anything flat. Which is always ok with us.
After our visit to Bruny Isand and spending a little time exploring Hobart, we jumped on a bus to Port Arthur where we officially began our journey north. Tasmania’s autumn weather is consistent with a location on the 43rd parallel in the southern hemisphere – cool, wet and windy. Really windy. And always a head wind. To top the weather off, Janet developed a head cold – so we opted to stay the first night indoors at a campground in Port Arthur and spent the afternoon sleeping and trying to stay warm.
We headed up the peninsula then next morning stopping in Dunalley, a small settlement recovering from recent brush fires. From Dunalley we decided to head off the beaten path and take the coastal fire roads up to Triabunna. It was a lovely day (for Tasmania) with some sunshine, relatively light winds and some beautiful views. Riding unsealed unmaintained fire roads is always fun. We enjoyed fresh fish and chips from the food cart on the beach near our camping spot in Triabunna.
From there we made our way up the coastal route stopping for nights in Swansea and Bicheno, where we saw fairy penguins, Ironhouse Point, where we watched the storms roll out to sea at the Iron House brewery and St Helens, where we camped with our lovely hosts Pip and Alex. We agree with Janet’s cousin Debs, the east coast of Tasmania, especially Bicheno, would be a fantastic place to retire to or have a holiday home.
After a late start and a yummy breakfast at the St. Helens crepery, we headed west and climbed to Weldburough Pass with a stiff headwind all the way. We stopped in at the wonderful Peyengana cheese factory before heading up for the final climb. We can safely say that a heavy meal of the world’s most delicious mac and cheese before a hard climb is not a great idea. Blurrghhhh.
Just as we set up our tent at the Weldborough Pub and Hotel campground on the downward, western side of the pass, the rain started with a fury. It rained, nonstop, all night. Our Big Agnes tent once again proved it’s worth in weight– we were dry except for one little condensation drip in the morning – and this was some serious rain. So much so that we opted to stay inside the pub, famous for it’s selection of Tasmanian micro brews, for a second night.
It was a fortuitous decision as our friends, Brian, Vicky, Tom and Hailey also decided to park their camper in the pub campground. A fun night of Jengo pursued.
From Weldborough we headed west to Scottsdale (another night in a pub!) and made our way to the loveliest little valley and tiny village of Lillydale. Definitely worth a visit. We treated ourselves to a bed and breakfast and enjoyed watching yet more storms come through the area.
Leaving lovely Lillydale we made our way to Beauty Point via the Batman Bridge. As we approached the bridge, we stopped to take a picture and noticed a very darkened sky – and the next thing you know – it is dumping and blowing – making the bridge crossing that much more exciting. Soaked, we pedaled into Beauty Point, stopping to take cover from the rain several times. As we rode along the footpath, a lady sitting on a park bench called out to us, asking if we have anywhere to stay. And that is how we found the lovely garden cabin with Bruce the pig. Thanks Susy for your generosity and opening your home to us!
Our last big adventure in Tasmania was an unmaintained fire road that cuts directly across from Beauty Point to Port Sorell. Thirty kilometers as the crow flies but, as we keep pointing out, we are not crows and we can’t fly. We had to go up and over the coastal hills near Narawntapu National Park and then around the Franklin Rivulet and Rubicon River inlet. A good ride with a 22% plus grade hill thrown in the middle! Both of us ended up pushing the bikes up the last ½ km to the top.
From Port Sorell we had a short day to Devonport so we decided to take a detour to Latrobe – one of Tasmania’s oldest towns with a fun main street, a chocolate factory and yummy bakeries. Brian, Vicky and their kids met up with us for a visit to the Reliquaire house, an eccentric collection of new and old “stuff” taking up three flours of hotel built in 1870 – pretty old for Australia. A perfect way to spend an afternoon with kids. Although, some of the dolls were Stephan King freaky.
Our final night, yet again a rainy one, was spent with our host Tim in Devonport – thanks for a lovely evening – we loved learning about hobby radio controlled airplanes. The next day, we explored a bit of Devonport by bicycle until the rain “forced” us into a bakery where we spent a day, hiding from the rain, in a café – taking residence on a couch – until we caught the night Spirit of Tasmania Ferry across the Bass Strait to Melbourne.
We loved Tasmania and have vowed to ride the north and west routes. We were lucky to get glimpse of Cradle Mountain on our final day of riding and were sad that we had to leave without exploring more of that region. We’ll be back in Tasmania someday.