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Day 1: Morning – From Hobart to The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
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Sunday morning is my favourite time to start a bike trip. Since I am usually starting from one of the biggest towns on my route, it means that I get to escape it before most people are even up. It makes for traffic-free roads as I leave the city center.
I was up and ready to go by 8:00 from my Narrara Backpacker’s room, having left behind a duffel bag with a change of clothes and street shoes and some other items (my own panniers which did not fit on the Tubus racks !) for my return in three weeks.
Every time I end a bike tour I tell myself – “Never again with so much stuff!” Well, here I was – yet again! The bike, the solidly built steel-frame Surly Long Haul Trekker, weighed 15 kg. (33 lbs.) and I had another 22 kg. (48 lbs.) of gear, most in the four Ortlieb panniers clipped onto their respective racks. [The panniers themselves probably weighed about 3.5 kg. (8 lbs.)!]
The panniers I had brought with me would just not fit on to the Tubus racks so the afternoon before I set off I had to arrange for the Ortliebs to be delivered to the Backpacker’s hostel.) My tent, poles, and sleeping bag were inside that plastic bag on top of the rear panniers. My camera gear and wallet, sunglasses, sun cream, and cycling gloves were in the handlebar bag. In the map case on top of the bag I also had a gps tracking device – the Spot Connect – so the folks back home could follow me along! Stuff, stuff, stuff! I dream of the day I set off with a credit card and nothing more!
The previous afternoon I had cycled down to the harbour and followed the first ten kilometers or so of the Intercity bike path that follows the River Derwent from the Harbour area pictured below all the way up to Clairmont, an easy if not terribly scenic first 15 kilometers.
The bike path ends at Claremont, where it runs into Main Road, which I followed all the way to Grafton. Now on Highway 1, I crossed the bridge and made use of some service roads to get to Highway C321. It was a bit confusing so I was relieved when I saw the direction signs at the Brighton intersection below! My goal for the morning was the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. I figured it was only right that I see some Tasmanian Devils on the very first day of my tour.
The sanctuary sits on top of a hill and I actually got off and pushed the bike up the potholed and dusty gravel road to the entrance. Storing my bike in a shed reserved for tools and equipment, I spent the next hour on a quick tour of the sanctuary, home to all sorts of animals I had never seen live before – wombats, quolls, koalas, as well as those Devils! I was also given a bag of kangaroo feed for the Foresters roaming freely in a fenced-off area.
While it would have been better to be there a bit earlier – the sun was almost directly overhead for most of my visit – I still got to see a few of the locals. It was a nice diversion from an admittedly short first bit of cycling.
The Tasmanian Devil above put aside whatever concerns it had about the heat and the sun to put on a little show for the visitors – and to get the raw meat that the park staff person made him play tug for. I learned that the Tassie Devil is an endangered animal whose overall numbers are down as low as 10,000 because of a facial cancer than has devastated the population.
On a more depressing note – perhaps the single-most negative thing I can say about cycling in Tasmania – is that most days I cycled by one or two dozen carcasses of wallabies, wombats, possum, and Tassie Devils. While I had experienced a similar thing on South Island New Zealand it was lesser carnage and on fewer days.
My tour of the sanctuary done, it was back to the bike and another 18 kilometers to the Richmond Cabin and Tourist Park where I got a tent spot for the night.
The elevation chart above shows an easy ride with a nice bit of gentle downhill at the end. On the way I passed the Coal Valley Golf Links on Middle Tea Tree Road (C322) where I filled my water bottles and sat in the shade for a while. It was hot out there on the road!
The Tourist Park is on the edge of the village of Richmond, population 750, which figured large in the early history of the island as a military post and as a convict station. A few buildings – a couple of churches, the courthouse, a jail, a post office – date back to the 1820’s and 1830’s. The Lonely Planet guide generously bills it as “arguably Tasmania’s premier historic town”.
That’s the campground in the satellite image below; my $15. a night tent spot was in the clump of trees near the centre of the image. I joined a few other tenters though I was the only one who had arrived on a “push bike”, the Aussie term for bicycle. Many had rented camper vans or cars.
My tent up and gear stashed inside, I cycled into the village. It was a Sunday afternoon about 4 and everything – what little there is! – was pretty much shut. I finally found a restaurant attached to a gas station at the far end of the village and – to no surprise – found very slim pickings for someone intent on keeping a vegan diet. I ended up having a cup of coffee – with soy cream – and postponed supper until I got back to the campground. I did cycle down to the bridge crossing the Coal River to see Australia’s oldest still-in-use road bridge. In the satellite image above you can see the bridge on the top right hand side as it crosses the river.
Back at the campground, I rehydrated a serving of vegan-friendly Pad Thai noodles which I had packed as an emergency item for those evenings when I couldn’t come up with anything acceptable. Here it was – Night #1 – and I was already using it!
Chatting with my immediate neighbours later that evening – a young couple from Chartres in France who had just finished a one-month stint of work on a farm in West Australia and were now doing some travelling – I listened as the Frenchman expressed a sort of bemusement at the fuss the locals make over a few buildings that were less than two hundred years old. Given the way that the history of my home province of Ontario in Canada mirrors that of Australia and Tasmania, I also get the Aussie perspective. To really get excited about Richmond it probably helps a lot to be born and bred in Tasmania!
The east coast of Tasmania draws rave reviews from all who travel along its roads and take in the views of the Pacific shore as they walk its beaches. I was looking forward to those beaches but I still had a bit of inland travelling to do before I got there. The next post details the route –