Down the east coast to Hobart (21/02/11-13/03/11)

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Oceania » Australia » Tasmania
March 18th 2011
Published: April 7th 2011
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On the road again.

We pointed the tandem north up the A7 towards Beauty Point and set off, the road was busy but had a wide shoulder which we could use when there weren't cars parked in it and whenever we had to get into the traffic stream we got plenty of space. We stopped for a breather at Tamar Island Wetland Reserve, planning to stop for 10 minutes but spending about 2 hours there wandering about watching the birds and looking for frogs. We finally reached Exeter at 17:00 after a rather bad tempered ride and decided to call it a day after the grand total of 20km.
The following morning we headed up to Beauty Point on a day trip from Exeter, the road was rolling but nothing we couldn't ride up and again all the traffic gave us plenty of space, things got quieter once we had passed the George Town turning and all the timber trucks turned off. At Beauty Point we wandered into Platypus House for a tour, seeing a number of the resident platypuses and meeting Eddy and Edwina the echidnas. Echidnas are notoriously difficult to sex and the staff only worked out which was which when Eddy laid an egg. They were great fun to watch and didn't regard anything as too great an obstacle, barging our bags, us and each other out of the way in their quest for food.
We then moved on to Seahorse World, a commercial seahorse farm with a tour function on the side, it wasn't as good as Platypus House, the information was a bit sparse and it felt a bit like we were doing a tour of a seahorse supermarket. A lot of emphasis was laid on what was available in the gift shop and the tour guide ended the tour very bluntly then disappeared before we could ask any questions.
We cycled back via the back roads, very little traffic and a beautiful ride if a bit "scenic" in places, we didn't have to push at all but would have done if we had all the luggage on. It was a slow, sedate ride along the river's edge with magnificent views of the Batman Bridge, a small amount of unmetalled road under the bridge and then an almost flat ride along the river back to Exeter.
The next day we continued north to the mouth of the Tamar, crossing the rather narrow Batman Bridge at breakneck speed trying to get across before any timber trucks caught us. Once on the east bank we soon reached the highway which has a wide shoulder all the way to the mill and most of the rest of the way to George Town. The road was rolling and we had to resort to walking a couple of times but made fairly good time to the town where we found "interesting" accommodation in the heritage hotel. the room appeared to be on a DIY basis, we had to fix the shower before we could use it, the food was good and the bike was safely locked in the beer store. To be fair though the place had just changed hands and was having a refit and the room was very cheap.
From George Town we headed along the coast to Bridport, the road was flatter, generally with a good shoulder and less traffic, we did get to climb a few hills but nothing as high as yesterday. We met a group of cyclists at Piper's River where there is the only cafe directly between George Town and Bridport so it has become known as a lunch and pee stop amongst tourers. We exchanged notes on the ride so far, they were doing a supported ride (a car transported all their bags) so went a lot faster than us but otherwise had the same gripes (hills mainly) and highlights (traffic behaviour being a big one). We met up again at Bridport, where we had rooms in the same hostel. The next morning we were all aiming for Derby with Scottsdale our first stop, the group set off ahead of us and we didn't expect to see them again as we struggled along feeling very sluggish, no particular reason we just didn't feel like riding. When we reached Scottsdale we made the decision to stop for the day, the road through to Derby is very hilly and we really weren't in the mood. We piled into the award winning eco visitor centre to arrange a bed for the night and look at the building, it is really two buildings, one inside the other and from the outside looks like an upturned bucket, they missed a trick by not naming it after Ned Kelly.

Employing the 48 inch gear

The road from Scottsdale to Derby starts with a 10km roll downhill before the big climbs, we rode the first km or so of the hill before deciding it would be just as fast and probably easier to use four feet and walk up the rest of it. Once over the top we rolled to the turning to Legerwood where there is an unusual war memorial, the community planted a tree for each man who died in WW1 plus one for ANZACS and one for Gallipoli. In 2004 the trees were condemned and had to be cut down, so the community hired a chainsaw artist to carve the stumps of each tree, it is wonderfully different to the usual stone monoliths.
We were soon pushing again as the road headed for the skies, but reached Derby (or Dah-urby as it became known while we were there) in time for coffee, then the final hill of the day, we'd just crested it when a ute pulled up and the driver yelled "You're nearly there, I'll see you later" before driving away. We reached our destination - the Weldborough Hotel, soon afterwards and got a round of applause from a group of bikers who were just leaving, they had passed us on the road and were surprised at how quick we were!!
We had booked the room while we were in Scottsdale and had enquired about catering for me, the guy I spoke to assured me it wouldn't be a problem and sure enough on the specials menu was vegetable curry with rice and naan which was wonderful (at Scottsdale I had resorted to sausage, egg and chips without the sausage!) As we finished our meal a familiar face appeared and asked how the meal was, the guy in the ute who also happened to be the landlord, he had been on a beer run when he passed us earlier. The Weldborough Hotel specialises in micro-brews and has samples from all the Tassie micro-breweries, we spent a pleasant evening sampling various beers before a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed.
One last hill to conquer in the morning then we had pretty much a rolling descent for the rest of the day, we had to stop regularly to let the disc and rims cool, Vernon was using the rear brake in preference to the front for a lot of the descents and the disc was getting rather warm in the process (it's a lovely blue colour now!). We reached Pyengana at lunchtime and stopped at The Pub In The Paddock which does exactly what it says on the sign, sadly the only beer they sell is Boag's Draught so we turned around and headed back to the Moo Cafe at Pyengana Dairy for coffee, lunch and cheese retail opportunities. As we continued towards St Helen's my right knee began to hurt badly, by the time we arrived I could barely walk so we decided to have a couple of days off the bike, one just ambling about the town and then a short day ride to the Bay of Fires to see how my knee behaved. I altered the position of my cleats slightly and it seemed to help. The Bay of Fires is a beautiful area, white sand beaches with rock pools to poke around in, small campsites at regular intervals and no massive developments. We enjoyed mooching around but the wind was very strong and rather cold so we eventually headed back to the hostel to get warm again. the ride back was slower as that strong wind was in our faces
Scottsdale Visitor Centre Scottsdale Visitor Centre Scottsdale Visitor Centre

Or possibly the Ned Kelly Memorial
all the way.

Slow going

The ride to Bicheno the next day was difficult, we had a very strong, gusting southerly wind which we were generally riding into but for a while it was a cross wind with random gusts of such intensity that we got blown off the road by one of them, thankfully we stayed upright and were soon on our way again - carefully! We stopped at the Iron House Brewery for lunch where there was a fine display of old Indians, members of the Indian Owners Club of Australia on a Tassie tour had also stopped for lunch. We were treated to the spectacle of a bunch of old blokes trying to start a bunch of old bikes, lots of jumping on kickstarts and a not inconsiderable amount of language got them on their way. The afternoon was spent on a rolling road which was slow and strength sapping, we were glad to reach Bicheno for cold drinks and ice lollies before sorting a bed for the night.
The wind continued the next day, only a 43km ride to Swansea but we struggled every km of it, not helped by our first incident of the ride when a tractor driver drove to within a couple of metres of our rear wheel before backing off, not sure if he didn't see us or if he was pratting about. Thankfully there were no further incidents and we got to Swansea by just after 15:00, checked into the hostel and absorbed tea. A few days before we had been recommended a restaurant in Swansea so we went looking for it only to discover it had closed 18 months previously, news travels slowly in Tassie.
We still had the strong southerly the following day as we headed to Triabunna, stopping to look at Spiky Bridge just south of Swansea, it is a local landmark which was built by convicts in 1843 to cross a steep gully and has spikes of rock decorating its top. There are many suggestions as to why the spikes are there, ranging from to stop cows falling over the edge to a comment by the convict labourers on their imprisonment. More likely it was just the walling style that the foreman was familiar with. The wind battered us for the rest of the day and we crawled to Triabunna.

Long day

It was apparent when we collected the bike box at Launceston Airport that it had been somewhat mishandled, there was a tear in the bottom of the box from a chainring and a big hole in the top from one of the seat posts, looking like it had suffered a crush impact or been dropped more than once. Since then the front rim has been rubbing on the brake pads at one point, causing severe jolting under braking. Riding from Triabunna towards Hobart we developed another problem, the rear wheel spokes all worked loose making the back of the bike wobble spectacularly, we had an impromptu pit stop to tighten them all up again and true the wheel before starting the descent from the big climb of the day. Due to the front rim damage we were descending on the disk brake only and had to stop regularly to allow everything to cool down. Shortly after we completed the descent the rear wheel went wobbly again, all the spokes had loosened again so we re-tightened them and set off again, managed about 3km before they had all loosened again!! This time we spent about an hour re-tightening and truing the wheel and it lasted us the rest of the ride. We reached the Richmond turning at about 19:00 and decided to head to Sorrell instead (3km rather than 11km and another hill) on getting to Sorrell we stopped at the RSA (Returned Services Association) so I could ask about accommodation. As I walked into the bar one of the customers yelled "No we f*cking don't. F*ck off" at me! Yeah, cheers mate, I'll remember to hold a welcome for you at my local too. Thankfully the staff were more welcoming and directed us to a B&B which sadly had no vacancies. We moved on to Midway Point where we found an overpriced B which had room for us (there was no &B, just a B), the hotel had stopped serving food so we had chocolate and crisps from the garage for dinner and a couple of beers to wash the day away. We were back at the B by 21:30 as the hotel staff made it clear they were shutting by turning all the lights out as we drank our second pint.


We set out on empty stomachs, expecting to find a cafe on the way to Hobart. The route started with a roll across the causeway which has a combined cycle and ped path on one side with access gates too narrow for the Jaffanaut, we took the road instead and were glad we had when we saw all the anglers with their kit spread out across the path snarling and grumbling at any cyclists or walkers who wished to get past. We stayed on the highway for a while before turning onto the back roads at Cambridge and grinding slowly up the only major lump of the day then rolling on to Rosny where we finally found breakfast giving us the energy needed to get us up to the view point overlooking the harbour. We lent the tandem against a tree and wandered off to take in the views interrupted only by the unmistakeable crump, clank, thump of the tandem falling over, it's amazing how it manages to look so stable until we turn our backs!
We had been assured that there was a wonderful cycle path over the Tasman Bridge so it came as no surprise when we screeched to a halt at a squeeze point too narrow for a loaded tandem, we dismounted and managed to manhandle the Jaffanaut onto the bridge but it was obvious that we couldn't cycle on the bike path, it was only 15cm (6") wider than the tandem giving us no wobble space at all. We became a mobile chicane for other bike path users, most of whom approached us with a level of understanding; all except lardy boy on his Bianchi who tried to barge past us without dropping any speed at all, as he passed me he said "You know you can ride on the road!" Go on then roadie-boy! The mountain bikers regarded us as a novel obstacle and took great pride in getting past us without having to touch down at all.
Once off the bridge we mounted up and set off towards the visitor centre, the ride was very slow and difficult but we didn't seem to be going uphill so it must have been the road surface, except we then got passed by a family group, including two very little kids on their first bikes with stabilisers, handle bar tassels and other necessary custom parts. About 100 metres further on we suddenly accelerated and it all got easier, then Vernon admitted that he'd had the parking brake on! Ah well, it's all good fitness training. We caught the family group again and as we passed them the two little girls started chattering about our "special" bike to us, their parents and the world in general, spreading wonder is what we do!

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