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It had rained off and on during the night and the tent was wet as I tucked the fly and the inner tent into their separate bags. With all my gear loaded, I cycled over to the Cradle Mountain Discovery Park kitchen/dining building for my usual breakfast – an oatmeal concoction and a couple of cups of coffee. It was 7:45 – overcast but not raining. I was hoping it stayed that way.
The first hour of the seventy-kilometer ride to Rosebery, my goal for the day, went along nicely. Even though I was now on A10 and heading down into the “wild” West Coast, the terrain was still mostly flat and Monday morning traffic was very light. It looked like I would be treated to a nice gentle downhill run until I got to that one final uphill before Rosebery that would have me coasting into town.
And then – it started raining! About fifteen minutes passed and I was cycling along when a vehicle – a pick-up truck – stopped. The driver waited until I pulled up next to him and then told me to put my bike in the back and hop in! I told I was fine and that I’d just keep pedalling. I’m sure he thought I was nuts as he insisted yet again.
Up went the bike into the back with the side bags providing a bit of a cushion; into the cab I crawled, a bit wet. Next to me was a beekeeper making his rounds of his various bee colonies. He was on his way back to Queenstown on B28 but when we got to the fork in the road he stayed on A10.
My “Hey, no need to go out of your way! You’ve already saved me forty kilometers of road!” was met with a “No worries – it’s just a couple of extra kilometers” response. I gathered that this was not the first time he had stopped to give a touring cyclist a hand. He figured he may as well eliminate the biggest hill of my day. (You can see what looks like a little bump on the elevation chart at the start of this post!) Our great conversation was over when he stopped at the top of that hill and turned back for B28. Meanwhile, I got one fantastic ride down into Rosebery with my speedometer showing km/hr in the mid-50’s. My clothes were nicely air-dried by the time I got to the bottom!
As the photo below of that hilltop shows the rain had also stopped and the sun was breaking through! It would stay nice for the rest of the morning and afternoon.
It was about 11:30 when I coasted down Rosebery’s main street (the A10!). The Rosebery Bakehouse is just a couple of storefronts up from the IGA and that is where I leaned my loaded bike against the front while I went inside for lunch. A veggie sandwich and a cup of coffee – and wi-fi! Given my easy morning, I had decided that I would push on to Zeehan, another thirty kilometers down the road. I checked tripadvisor for a place to stay and came up with the Hotel Cecil. The server was kind enough to phone ahead for me to confirm room availability – so all was set!
After lunch I walked across the street to the mine exhibit. it was a gold discovery in the 1890’s that started this town with a current population of 900; eventually zinc became the primary metal to be extracted and the mine is still open these days. Having grown up in a mining town in northern Canada it was easy to relate to Rosebery’s history. The sight of the mine mill across from the exhibit brought back memories of Noranda’s Horne Mine mill that I had worked in during my four-month summers off during my university years. It paid the bills for the next year of school and accommodation!
As the elevation graph shows, the ride from Rosebery to Zeehan only has one significant hill and even it only involves a rise of about 120 meters. Also note a negative feature of the Google Map- generated graphs – it always using the same distance from lowest to highest point of the ride. The 933 meters on the left graph should really be three times as high as the 334 on the right!
The road was all but empty; I saw perhaps five cars during the hour and a half that I spent cycling to the Hotel Cecil.
And then – Zeehan. Another mining town with a population of less than a thousand (728 is the most recent count). It was founded a decade before Rosebery up the road and was built on a silver discovery. It reminded me of Dawson City (current pop. 1200) in the Yukon and the center of the 1890’s Klondike Gold Rush. In both cases, grand buildings on main street provide evidence of a time when these towns were riding high.
I came off the A10 and headed down main street to that red location marker you see on the map below – Hotel Cecil and Maud’s Restaurant. The owner – a welcoming Filipino woman – was also the cook and she would later prepare an excellent vegan-friendly noddle & veggies lunch for me.
My room was up on the second floor. During the afternoon I kept my bike locked outside but I did haul it up to my room overnight for total peace of mind. The hotel has seen better days and needs work but at $50. Aus the room was totally acceptable. The original plan had been to stop at Rosebery and tent there. Given the rain that moved back in overnight I would have had other worries!
Not far from the Hotel Cecil is the old downtown area, the core of which makes up The West Coast Heritage Centre, a commendable community project to revitalize the town.
An admission ticket lets you wander through the various buildings and get a feel for what Zeehan would have been in its heyday when it had a population of 10,000.
The promo above has a list of the various attractions. My two-hour visit began with the ticket purchase in the Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy building on the very right of the image below. It was the conversion of this former school into the West Coast Pioneers’ Memorial Museum in the mid-1960’s that was the first step towards the multi-building Heritage Centre that exists today.
With my ticket I accessed the other buildings and outdoor exhibits in sequence.
The grandest building of all is the Gaiety Theatre; at one time its seating for 1000 made it the largest theatre in Tasmania. Given that Zeehan was at the time the third largest town on the island, the seats got filled!
Unfortunately few mining towns are exempt from the boom and bust cycle. Locals still hope for an upturn in the town’s luck – an increase in metal prices, new investment, a new discovery…and another boom.
I headed back to Hotel Cecil and a cup of coffee with the free wi-fi. Later on that evening I was back at the hotel’s restaurant for a second helping of the fried noodles and veggies. During the night intermittent rain fell; if it continued it would make the next morning’s 43-kilometer ride a wet one.
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