Cycling Around Tasmania – Rest Day at Dove Lake & Cradle Mountain

Previous Post: Gowrie Park To Cradle Mountain

cradle_mapA day off the saddle – a day to make use of the hiking boots that make up 1.2 of the 20 kg. load of “essential” stuff I decided to bring along for my ’round Tasmania bike ride.

From my Discovery Parks tent site I wandered over to the huge kitchen/dining building and made some breakfast. By 9:00 I was over at the Welcome Center/Transit Depot with my ticket and my park entry form – ready to catch the next bus into the park itself.

There are a number of stops along the way to Dove Lake, the end of the line. At some of these stops hikers got off for their choice of day hike.

My plan was to walk along the Dove Lake trail and then make my way up to the path going to the summit of Cradle Mountain. The image below sets the scene – it is what I saw after I left the bus and walked across the parking lot to the trailhead.

view of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain from the trailhead

view of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain from the trailhead

“You are here” the map reads. I would take the right hand trail and start my walk. I looked out over Dove Lake and beyond to the series of peaks in the distance. I’d be getting to know them much better from various angles as I walked around the lake!

view-of-dove-lake-and-cradle-mountain-from-the-trailhead

dove-lake-trail-map

Dove Lake Walks Sign

Dove Lake Walks Sign

The peaks at the other end of the lake may have been the ultimate objective but first up was the boatshed (built of pine and dating back to 1940) sitting on a gravel beach with the trail passing behind it.  I got one shot of it and then waited for some fellow hikers to walk into the image and give it a human element.

Dove Lake boat shed

Dove Lake boat shed

Dove Lake boat shed and Cradle Mountain

Dove Lake boat shed and Cradle Mountain

Some of the Dove Lake path is wood boardwalk and some – as the image below shows – is stone. Some stretches have a wire mesh nailed on top to provide better traction for walkers of the eight-kilometer Dove Lake Circuit, clearly the most popular of the walks in the park.

the Dove Lake trail with Cradle Mtn up ahead.jpg

the west side Dove Lake trail with Cradle Mountain to the south

Cradle Mtn reflection in Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain  reflection in Dove Lake

I left the Dove Lake Trail at the south end and started up on the rather steep path to Wilks Lake.  The trail got steeper and steeper and – after an initial section with mesh covered boardwalk to reduce erosion – it also got rougher.  In retrospect, I probably picked the wrong approach for my planned hike to Cradle Mtn.  summit. As the map below shows, there is a more gradual ascent hat starts shortly after the boathouse.

map-fo-trails-to-cradle-mountain-summit

Dove Lake trails

I didn’t even get as far as Wilks Lake before I decided to pass on the uphill scramble. No trekking poles, a bit of a kink in my left knee, and just not enough motivation to git ‘er dun!  I walked back down the track to Wilks Lake I had just gone part way up and was back down at lake level.

dove-lake-circuit-elevation-chart

Revised objective: do the walk around the lake!  I had already down the most difficult bit of the circuit – the steep up and down walk across the peninsula on my way to the south end of the lake.

boardwalk up from Dove lake

boardwalk up from Dove lake

rough path above Dove Lake

rough path above Dove Lake at the south west end

back down the boardwalk trail on the slopes above Dove Lake

back down the boardwalk trail on the slopes above Dove Lake

From different angles the peaks seemed to shrink or get higher relative to each other. The actual figures go like this:

  • Little Horn – 1355 meters
  • Wiendorfer’s Tower – 1459 meters
  • Smithie’s Peak – 1527 meters
  • Cradle Mountain – 1545 meters
a view of Cradle Mountain from the trail at the top end of Dove Lake

a view of Cradle Mountain from the trail at the top end of Dove Lake

a view of Cradle Mtn from the east side of Dove Lake .jpg

a view of Cradle Mtn.from the east side of Dove Lake

As I walked along the east side of the lake back to the starting point I looked back more than once to take a look at the series of iconic peaks that define the park.

trail on east side of Dove Lake

trail on east side of Dove Lake

east side Dove Lake gravel beach

east side Dove Lake gravel beach

The photo below looks over the lake toward the boathouse on the west side; the stretch of the shore with gravel is where it is.  I took this shot from Glacier Rock, a dramatic view-point that comes up near the end of the walk if, like me, you have done it counter-clockwise.

a view of the Dove Lake boat shed from the east side of the lake

a view of the Dove Lake boat shed from the east side of the lake

a view of the Dove Lake boat shed from the east side of the lake

a closer up view of the Dove Lake boat shed from the east side of the lake

That is Glacier Rock that some fellow hikers I have left behind are standing on.

taking in the view from Glacier Rock on Dove Lake

taking in the view from Glacier Rock on Dove Lake

looking south from Glacier Rock on Dove Lake

looking south from Glacier Rock on Dove Lake

And here is Glacier Rock again for yet further away; it certainly provides a magnificent vantage point from which to enjoy the views.

looking back at Glacier Rock on Dove Lake's east side

looking back at Glacier Rock on Dove Lake’s east side

back to the north end trailhead of Dove Lake

back to the north end trailhead of Dove Lake

After a couple of hours I was back at the beginning. I was feeling somewhat guilty for having wimped out on the hike up to the top of Cradle Mountain – it would have doubled the eight kilometers I walked around the lake and more than doubled the views. However, the Dove Lake Circuit had been an enjoyable way to spend the morning. As i neared the car park and bus stop area my thoughts turned to lunch at the restaurant attached to the Visitor Center. I’d eventually get back there but I first hopped off the bus for a half-hour visit to the Park Museum.

the car park just behind the trailhead at Dove Lake

the car park just behind the trailhead at Dove Lake

The photo from the early 1900’s of a hiking party on Cradle Mountain summit – no trekking poles in evidence, no hiking boots, but clearly lots of motivation!

Cradle Mountain summiteers photo

Cradle Mountain summiteers photo

And then I saw the following recreation of wintertime Dove Lake.  Hanging on the wall was a pair of Algonquin-style snowshoes from the boreal forests of the Canadian Shield!  A few days earlier I had seen another object from back home in Canada in a shop in Bicheno – it was a dream catcher, an Ojibwe creation which has been embraced by New Agers the world over as an expression of spirituality.  It is fascinating how bits and pieces of cultures from far away pop up in new contexts – not stolen so much as embraced for their ingenuity or poetry.

recreation of a Dove Lake cabin and winter gear

recreation of a Dove Lake cabin and winter gear

That afternoon some rain would move in and I spent some time in the kitchen/ dining building reading and planning the next leg of my journey.  Strahan was the next major destination and I hoped that with morning some better weather would arrive!

Next Post: Cycling Around Tasmania – Cradle Mountain To Zeehan 

Cycling Around Tasmania – Gowrie Park To Cradle Mountain

Previous Post: From Deloraine To Gowrie Park Via Sheffield

Click on the More Options prompt to get the full screen view.

gowrie-park-cradle-mountain-elevaton-chart

I got up to blue skies at Gowrie Park’s Wilderness Village and headed for the kitchen area for breakfast.  The sliced whole wheat bread and peanut butter and fruit juice from the previous day’s visit to the IGA in Sheffield were followed by a mug of instant coffee.  After I dropped off the key at the reception desk, it was time to get rolling.

As the elevation chart above shows, the gentle uphill on first setting out was followed by an exhilarating but short descent down to the River Forth. In the satellite view below you can see the switchback making its way down to the River Forth; you can also see the bridge that crosses the river.

What you can’t see is the amount of energy I expended moving myself and the loaded bike (36 kg. or 80 lbs. in total!) up a seemingly never-ending series of switchbacks! Definitely the most difficult climb – a sustained one hour – since I had left Hobart!

from-gowrie-park-to-the-river-forth

from Gowrie Park to the bridge over the River Forth

The one good thing was that there was very little traffic on the road. I had thought that given that Highway C136 goes right by Cradle Mountain it would be busier; perhaps the fact that it was a Tuesday morning in autumn with schools back in session explain the lack of traffic.

Hwy C132 switchback on the way to Cradle Mountain

Hwy C136 switchbacks on the way to Cradle Mountain

looking back at a bit of uphill on C136

looking back at a bit of  C136

When I got to the junction of C136 with C132 I stopped at the Cradle Forest Inn for my reward – a second cup of coffee. It would have made an alternative stop to Gowrie Park, albeit at $140. a night instead of the $10. for my unpowered tent site!  I enjoyed the ambiance and chilled for a bit before getting back to the job at hand – getting to Cradle Mountain and the Discovery Parks property.

approaching the junction of C136 and C132

approaching the junction of C136 and C132

looking out from the Cradle Forest Inn's restaurant area

looking out from the Cradle Forest Inn’s restaurant area

the view from the back porch of the Cradle Forest Inn

the view from the back porch of the Cradle Forest Inn

Tasmanian wines on display at the Cradle Forest Inn

Tasmanian wines on display at the Cradle Forest Inn

For some reason I thought the climbing was done when I got to the junction and had my little break.  Not quite!  Still another 300 meters to gain – and lose and then take back again.  Back on the road again here is what was on the menu for the next 1 1/2 hours –

c136132-junction-to-cradle-mountain-discover-parks

For the last 12 km of the ride the terrain was basically flat and the road took me across a treeless plateau.  It looked like there had been a fire in the area in the past decade or so. Again, without really trying, I was getting lots of pics with no vehicles in them!

on Hwy C136 to Cradle Mountain

on Hwy C132 to Cradle Mountain

road sign on C136 on the way to Cradle Mountain

road sign on C132 on the way to Cradle Mountain

a flat stretch of road - the C136 to Cradle Mtn.

a flat stretch of road – the C132 to Cradle Mtn.

the Middlesex area on C136 - on the way to Cradle Mtn

the Middlesex area on C132 – on the way to Cradle Mtn.

desolate fields in the Middlesex area near Cradle Mountain

desolate fields in the Middlesex area near Cradle Mountain

I got to the side road that takes you from C132 up to Dove Lake at about 1 p.m. A last bit of uphill and I turned in at the Discovery Parks entrance for the reception office. (It is  3 kilometers in from the highway.) Dove lake is another 8 kilometers or so further along the road.)   I had pre-booked two nights’ accommodation months ago bacon Toronto.  The satellite view below sets the scene –

The road in from C132 to the Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain property - cabins, tenting, caravans

The road in from C132 to the Discovery Parks  property – cabins, tenting, caravans

I was quite impressed with the place – great facilities – showers, gigantic cooking and eating areas,washrooms – everything worked and was well-maintained.  The only thing that didn’t work was the wi-fi.  You realize what an addiction it has become when you sit there with fellow internet junkies in front of the reception office – the only hot spot on the property – and try to get a hit – um, that should read “try to get online”!  it is annoying when a place advertises wi-fi and then does not deliver!

cradle_map

 

Immediately across from the Discovery Park property is the Welcome Center where you’ll find  a Park store with maps and last minute supplies for hikers doing day and multi-day hikes in the park. You also buy your park pass here.  Connected to it is a restaurant.

Out back in the parking lot are shuttle buses that leave from here  for Dove Lake and other stops along the way.  The actual park boundary is two kilometers down the road from the Visitors Center.

The shuttle service is meant to encourage to park their vehicles – especially their campers – and make use of the buses and thus cut down on traffic congestion. It has apparently cut down traffic by about a third. At Dove Lake there is a parking lot that private vehicles can drive to but it is often full in the prime time summer season.

the-road-from-discovery-park-to-dove-lake

From Discovery Park on the right to Dove Lake on the left via Park bus

It was a bit late to be setting off for Dove Lake by the time I got myself set up at my tent spot so I decided to leave it for the next morning. I planned to the day off the saddle and in my hiking boots walking the trail around Dove lake and maybe to the top of Cradle Mountain itself.

The next morning I would get my own version of the iconic shot of the boat house on Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain in the background!

Dove Lake boat shed

Dove Lake boat shed

Next Post: A Day Off The Saddle – Ramblin’ Around Dove Lake

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Deloraine To Gowrie Park via Sheffield

Previous Post: Launceston To Deloraine – An Easy 50 km Sunday Morning Ride

Click on the More options prompt on the top left corner for a full screen view.

I left my Meander riverside campsite by 8:30  on Monday morning and found a restaurant on Emu Bay Road. A cup of coffee and a quick nibble and it was off for the morning’s ride.  The goal for the day was a tent spot at Gowrie Park but I would first cycle to Sheffield for lunch.  The elevation chart above shows the morning ride through genteel Tassie farm country. I saw very little traffic on the road, even on the A1 that I followed from Deloraine to just before Elizabethtown.  The B and C series roads were even quieter.

I wondered where all the other cyclists were!  My seventh day on the road from Hobart and I had only seen one solo American cyclist in Triabunna and a Canadian couple at St. Helens putting their bike on the bus. That was it – far fewer fellow cyclists than I figured I’d see!

early-morning-scene-on-the-road-from-deloraine-to-sheffield

Early morning scene on the road from Deloraine to Elizabethtown

a-stretch-of-the-b13-to-sheffield

a stretch of the B13 to Sheffield

The B13 took me on a long downhill to the Mersey River.  At the Mersey River I made a sharp left turn on to C156 (Bridle Track Road) which eventually runs into B14 perhaps 3 kilometers from Sheffield. Given I was in the middle of farm country it was no surprise to learn that Sheffield is a farm supply center for the region.

late summer fields near Sheffield Tasmania

late summer fields near Sheffield, Tasmania

fields, farm sheds, and pond near Sheffield in Tasmania

fields, farm sheds, and pond near Sheffield in Tasmania

approaching Sheffield - watch for equestrians!

approaching Sheffield – watch for equestrians!

sheffield-tasmania-street-map

Sheffield, Tasmania intersection Main and High Streets

Sheffield, Tasmania intersection Main and High Streets

I cycled down Main Street looking for a cup of coffee and a wi-fi connection so I could check my email. I found it at Fudge ‘n’ Good Coffee, a popular spot with a steady steam of tourists coming in.

sheffield-mural-the-1920s

Lunch and email done, I had to check out the wall murals for which the town has become famous.  On another bicycle tour on Vancouver Island back in 2001 I had cycled through Chemainus and been impressed with the murals scattered around the downtown area. It was part of an effort to revitalize the town and create a tourist attraction at the same time and it worked. Well, apparently Sheffield heard of the project and applied the idea to their own town. As the Lonely Planet Guide to Tasmania (2015) notes –

Sheffield is now a veritable outdoor art gallery, with more than 50 fantastic large-scale murals and an annual painting festival to produce more.

equestrian theme on Sheffield street mural

equestrian theme on Sheffield street mural

I spent about an hour walking around and framing shots of various murals that caught my eye – lots of nostalgia and creativity and a bit of whimsy were on display!

sheffield-tasmania-street-mural

sheffield-bible-college-wall-mural

Sheffield Bible College Wall Mural – As you sow, so shall ye reap.

central-panel-of-sheffield-bible-college-mural

Sheffield Tasmania mural of Thylacine

Sheffield Tasmania mural -

Sheffield Tasmania mural – “Celebrating Community”

outdoors wall mural in Sheffield Tasmania

Sheffield mural - The Blacksmith Shop

Sheffield mural – The Blacksmith Shop

Main street Sheffield Tasmania

Main street Sheffield Tasmania

After a quick visit to the local IGA for some fresh fruits, nuts, and water it was time to finish off the day with the ride to Gowrie Park. It started with a slight climb on my way out of Sheffield and then after a nice ride downhill to the Dasher River was followed by a slight uphill all the way to the Wilderness Village and my tent spot.  Shower and laundry facilities, as well as a small kitchen/eating area  with microwave and kettle and dishes – all very well looked after – not a bad base camp if you wanted to stop and do some day hikes in the immediate area.

Sheffield-Gowrie Park elevation chart

Sheffield-Gowrie Park elevation chart

leaving Sheffield for Gowrie Park - a bit of a downhill

leaving Sheffield for Gowrie Park – a bit of a downhill to the Dasher River

a view from the road of farm fields near Gowrie Park

a view from the road of farm fields near Gowrie Park

That evening I wandered down the road from the Wilderness Park to a nearby restaurant,  Weindorfer’s. (It was up for sale when I was there in March 2016 and may be under new ownership.)  While there was nothing vegetarian indicated on the menu –  a common theme in Tasmania –  the kitchen did put together a simple pasta with vegetables dish that hit the spot.

abandoned farm house at Gowrie Park

abandoned farm-house at Gowrie Park

Below is a satellite view of Mount Roland (4045’/1233m), a part of the Great Western Tiers that I had first looked at from Deloraine the previous afternoon.  There is a hiking trail that takes you up to the ridge.

gowrie-park-with-mount-roland-behind

The total distance as an out-and-back from Gowrie Park is about 16km with an elevation difference of about 900 meters.  The  round trip time from the car park is about six hours, including breaks.  Apparently the face of Mount Roland even has rock climbing potential  – see here for some challenging route ideas that I googled my way into.

Mount Roland behind the Gowrie Park tent site

Mount Roland behind the Gowrie Park tent site

Tempting but not possible  –  I would not be hiking up to the top the next morning.  I had already prepaid a tent site at Cradle Mountain for the next two nights so I had to stay on schedule!  A good thing too since Cradle Mountain was completely booked when I arrived.

But, of course, the price of prearranged accommodation is that it does not allow sudden changes in plans if you come across worthwhile options that you could not have been aware of when you first made them.

Coming up – Cradle Mountain and a chance to slip on those hiking boots for a morning’s walk around Dove Lake. But first – I had to get there.

gowrie-park-and-mount-roland-massif

Next Post: From Gowrie Park To Cradle Mountain 

Cycling Around Tasmania – Launceston To Deloraine

elevation-chart-launceston-to-deloraine-50-km

Sunday morning is my favourite time to be on the road; the absence of traffic makes for a stress-free ride.  The week before I had left Tasmania’s largest city – Hobart – on a  Sunday morning; now I was doing it again but from Launceston, the second largest of the island’s towns. From my backpackers’ hostel I found my way to Westbury Road by 8:00 a.m. and followed it up to the top of a steep climb out of town – see the elevation chart above! – until it becomes B54. Thirty minutes on the road and I had done the day’s major climb!  For the rest of the three-hour ride, the terrain was pretty much flat and I found myself in Deloraine before noon.

an empty Sunday morning road on the way to Deloraine

an empty Sunday morning road on the way to Deloraine

B54 passes through a number of tiny hamlets and by expansive farm fields.  It was March so harvest time had come and gone. I framed the flat road and an occasional herd of dairy cattle in my camera viewfinder to capture the essence of the day’s ride.  Given that the A1 – a major thoroughfare – is nearby, the secondary roads I was cycling remained all but empty the whole way to Deloraine.

B54 route sign - Deloraine 39 km

B54 route sign – Deloraine 39 km

Meander Valley fields on an overcast Sunday morning in March

Meander Valley fields on an overcast Sunday morning in March

Meander Valley -flat road through farm country

Meander Valley – flat road through farm country

another B54 distance marker in the Meander Valley

another B54 distance marker in the Meander Valley

At 9:00 or so I cycled through Carrick and the Inn pictured below.  A cup of coffee – Down Under I’ve learned to order  a flat white with soy milk – would make a nice reward for the early start to the day!  Unfortunately,  the restaurant was not yet open for Sunday business; staff was still cleaning up the Saturday night mess!

The Carrick Inn on B54 - too early for Sunday morning eats

The Carrick Inn on B54 – too early for Sunday morning eats

Off to the next possibility just a minute or two down the road –  The Mill Inn.  The lines slashed through the food and beverage part of their offerings made it clear that there would be no flat white here either.

Carrick's The Mill Inn - closed!

Carrick’s The Mill Inn – closed!

side-of-carricks-mill-inn

Not far after Carrick The Meander Valley Road (B54) crosses over the Bass Highway (A1) and continues almost all the way to Deloraine. The satellite view below has B54 crossing above A1 in the middle of the image; the patchwork of farm fields captures the essential nature of the region.

b54-crosses-a1-bass-highway-near-hagley

B54 overpass - A1 underneath

B54 overpass – A1 (Bass Highway)  underneath

dairy herd in the fields before Deloraine

dairy herd in the fields before Deloraine

Just before The Meander Valley Road gets to Deloraine it merges with the A5, which then takes you right to the bridge crossing the Meander River and into downtown Deloraine.

Draped over hills beside the Meander River, DELORAINE is a pleasant spot on the route west. The area was settled by Europeans in the 1830s, but Deloraine was a late-starter, developing from 1846, and today it’s National Trust classified, its backstreets stuffed with historic houses. But don’t let that put you off – architecture is only a backdrop to this town’s quietly bohemian vibe. Numerous arts and crafts galleries line the streets – for a taster there’s Deloraine Creative Studios … the outlet for several local producers, and the largest of the many shops in town.  Rough Guides Snapshot. “Rough Guides Snapshot Tasmania. (2014)

deloraine-tasmania-satellite-view

I headed for the Deloraine Apex Caravan Park.  The main office for the Park is in a bungalow across the street from the caravan and tent site. I paid my $10. and got my key to access the various facilities – showers, toilets, cooking area – and then walked my loaded bicycle down to the Meander River.  I found a nice sheltered spot under the tree pictured in the image below.  Once the tent was up I unpacked the sleeping bag and inflated the Thermarest pad.  After rambling around the park for a while – there is a bridge that takes you to the other side for a different perspective – it was time to focus on essentials.  Coffee and food on main street!

the-deloraine-apex-caravan-park-campers-along-the-meander-river

The Deloraine Apex Caravan Park – campers along the Meander River

Deloraine Apex Caravan Park - my tent spot on the banks of the Meander River

Deloraine Apex Caravan Park – my tent spot on the banks of the Meander River

Meander River reeds and reflections

Meander River reeds and reflections

I left my bike at the tent site and made my way up the hill on West Goderich Street to the main drag – Emu  Bay Road.  The one thing Deloraine does have was nice views of  The Great Western Tiers, a set of hills in the hazy distance.  Okay, so it’s not the Himalayas but still – it does introduce a bit of drama in an otherwise fairly tame landscape. (I would be looking for other words  later in the journey at Cradle Mountain and then at Strahan on the West Coast – not tame!)

The next day I would be camping underneath Mount Roland, one of the bumps or ridges on the horizon that I viewed from the back porch of the Great Western Tiers Visitor Centre on Emu Bay Rd.;  the Centre is worth a visit thanks to informative displays and lots of tourist info and helpful staff.

quamby-bluff-a-view-from-deloraine

Quamby Bluff – a view from Deloraine

The Gog Range and Mount Roland in the afternoon haze from Deloraine.jpg

The Gog Range and Mount Roland in the afternoon haze from Deloraine

In retrospect, Deloraine would have made a good spot to stop for lunch and take in the views I framed above but as for that “quietly bohemian vibe” mentioned in the Rough Guide review –  I wasn’t feeling it!  There is “laid back” and then there’s “dead”.

Perhaps the fact that it was a sleepy Sunday afternoon in autumn explains the nothing-happening feel of the place.  Another 40 kilometers – two and half hours – and I would have been in Sheffield by mid-afternoon in what seemed to me a  more interesting little town with more to look at and with more restaurants open past 5 p.m.

Next Post: Deloraine To Gowrie Park Via Sheffield

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Bicheno To St. Helens

Previous Post: From Swansea To Bicheno

Click on the More options prompt in the top left hand box to access the full screen view.

bicheno-st-helens

Day 5 on the road from Hobart – having covered less than 200 kilometers in the first four days!  This day would be more ambitious thanks to the fact that there really aren’t any great accommodation options before St. Helens!  In terms of ocean views it would also be the best single day as the pix below will hopefully show.  And while the elevation chart above may look rather daunting with all those jagged peaks, the thing to remember is the very narrow range in elevation – i.e. only between 4 meters and 73. It was actually a very enjoyable ride!

The beach at the Denison River Conservation Area, about ten kilometers north of my  Bicheno Holiday Park tent spot, was my first of a number of spots to get off the bike and go for a little shoreline walk.  The path going down to the beach came complete with a reminder to be aware that the immediate shoreline is a bird breeding area.

coservation-area-sign-above-beach-near-bicheno

path down to the beach north of Bicheno

path down to the beach north of Bicheno

beach view south of Bicheno on Tasmania's east coast

beach view north of Bicheno on Tasmania’s east coast

looking into the afternoon storm cluds near Bicheno

looking north into the afternoon storm clouds near Bicheno

Bicheno beach - Tasmania

Bicheno beach – Tasmania

Bicheno beach - Tasmania east coast

Bicheno beach – Tasmania east coast

I ended up spending a half hour at the most beautiful of the east coast beaches I had come across so far.  Back on the saddle I got to do a more inland stretch of the A3 before coming down close to the seashore again in the Chain of Lagoons area.

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno.jpg

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno – an inland stretch of the Tasman Highway

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

Another stunning beach area – and perhaps due to it being autumn – like most of the others I has stopped at, I had it completely to myself.  I sat on the rocks below and had an apple and some sugared water.  A look at the map told me i could have lunch at Scamander within the hour so back up to road I went for some more eye-popping beach views before the A3 turns sharply west to the junction with the A4.

East coast Tasmania - beach scene

East coast Tasmania – beach scene near Chain of Lagoons off Hwy A3

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania's east coast

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania’s east coast

a3-runnning-close-to-the-shore-just-south-of-scamander

looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

Just north of the Four Mile Creek Conservation Area the road runs right along the shoreline for a couple of kilometers before turning inland to the junction with Hwy A4.  When I got to the junction the distance markers told me that I had cycled 50 kilometres from Bicheno since setting off four hours before. This was not the Tour de France!

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

As i cycled through Scamander I was looking for an eatery of some sort.  I finally found something just before I reached the bridge over the Scamander River. It was a takeaway with all the usual fast – and fried – foods.

Scamander News Agency and take-away

Scamander News Agency and Take-Away

Lunch done I had another 23 kilometers to do and I had some extra motivation. Some bad weather was coming in and I wanted to be settled in somewhere before the rain came tumbling down.  As I approached St. Helens, the first option I passed was the  Big 4 St. Helens Holiday Park.  It is on the south side of the town just across the bridge from the downtown area.  However, the thought of spending the night in my tent in a rain storm was an option I figured I’d pass on.

Over the bridge there is also a Backpacker’s hostel on the main street – Cecilia Street.  It is also downtown and it would put me closer to restaurants and grocery stores. Off I went to the hostel – only to find that it was shut down and had a “For Sale” sign on it!  Yikes! What now?  Cycle the 1.5 km. back across the bridge and up to the campground?  Across the street from the closed hostel was the Bayside Inn.  It was already starting to rain as I pushed my loaded bike across the Cecilia Street.

st-helens-tasmania-satellite-shot

 

Within a couple of minutes I had my room at the Bayside Inn – not in the new addition but in the original 1950’s motel structure on the side of it. At $80.for the night I was not complaining!  My bike and gear and i would be dry for the night! I rolled my bike inside the room and checked the facilities – a shower, a small kitchenette area complete with pots and utensils, wi-fi!  It would definitely do!

St Helens - the Bayside Inn - shelter from the storm

St Helens – the Bayside Inn – shelter from the storm

St. Helens Bayside Inn - the original motel structure

St. Helens Bayside Inn – the original motel structure

The rain came down all night and it was still raining the next morning when it was time to set off for Scottsdale.  By then I had come up with a solution to spending a morning or maybe more cycling in the rain up to my next day’s destination – I would just put my bike on the bus and miss the rain completely!

On the next street over (Circassian Street) from the Bayside Inn is a BP station.  It also serves as the pick-up spot for the Calows Coaches intercity bus that goes from St. Helens to Launceston.  Putting bikes on buses in Tasmania is a remarkably easy thing to do – unlike here in Canada.

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-2-00-01-pm

I even left on the front and rear panniers on the bottom side on the bike so the bike would be cushioned if the ride was at all bumpy. (I did put a piece of cardboard under each of the rented panniers so they would not get all scrubbed up and smudged from rubbing!)

map-of-tasmania

We left St. Helens at at 8:30 and at 11:00 I was in Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest town.  Thanks to my revised schedule, I was also there a day early. Since  I already had the next night at the Backpackers’ Hostel paid for,  I figured my best bet would be to see if they had a room available for this day too. They did – and that is how I got to spend two days in beautiful Launceston, in some ways a more interesting town than Hobart to the south.

Next Post: Checking Out Launceston, Tasmania

 

Cycling Around Tasmania – Swansea To Bicheno

Previous Post: From Triabunna To Swansea

Overnight the clouds and rain moved through the area and the next morning the sun was back out.  I would have a pretty easy day of it.  Well, perhaps make that “morning”  since I rolled into Bicheno shortly after noon, having covered the 42 kilometers in about three hours of leisurely cycling.  I am enough of a obsessive-compulsive Type A personality that I do remember worrying that I was not covering enough distance each day and that I was spending too much time being a tourist. Noon – and dun? Ya gotta be kiddin’!

swansea-to-bicheno

Click here for the full-screen interactive view.

swansea-to-bicheno

The A3 on this day strayed far from the beaches and I recall cycling past long stretches of farm fields on fairly flat terrain.  Some of the pix below convey the overall scene. There was one bit of climbing to do; it came up near Apslaw just after the road turn off but even it – compared to the 600 meter gains in elevation I would be doing  a week later on the West Coast – was no big deal. And, of course, if you are hurting on the way up, you’ll have tears flowing out of your eyes as you bomb down the other side of the same bump in the road.

The point I eventually clued in to was that the bump on the graph above is not a 2-D representation of the actual hill but rather an indication of how much altitude you will gain in a set distance.  The  road can only be so steep; what you should really be imagining is an extended series of switchbacks that takes you up from, in the graph above, 8 meters to 183 meters, over a five kilometer distance. While it still hurts, it gets done!

heading north on A3 from Swansea

heading north on A3 from Swansea

bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

panorama – bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

road sign on the way to Bicheno

road sign on the way to Bicheno

Tasmania’s east coast and its incredible beach vistas!  Well, not on the stretch from Swansea to Bicheno!  It is only when you get to Bicheno itself that you are back at the water’s edge. Getting there shortly after noon gave me lots of time to ramble along the seashore after putting up my tent at the Caravan Park.

stretch of road S of Bicheno

stretch of road S of Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3

bicheno-satellite-shot

See here for the Google map view of Bicheno.

Central Business District Bicheno

Central Business District Bicheno

I put up my tent on the cushy grass surface in the Caravan Park’s camper section.  I was surrounded by over a dozen fellow bikers – but these guys = and their wives – were motorcyclists who belonged to the Ulysses Motorcycle Club. Billed as a club for “mature riders” I was looking at a bunch of guys who looked like they were in the retirement phase of their life journey – kinda like me!  There is a motorcycle museum in Bicheno which may have been the draw for these riders from the mainland states.  Given their friendliness and generosity with beer bottles, their slogan “growing old disgracefully!” was a bit of wishful thinking!  Later on I’d shoot the breeze and sip on the supplied beer with some of them – but first I had a veg-friendly lunch to find a beachfront to explore.

my tent at Bicheno Caravan Park

my tent at Bicheno Holiday Park

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

I would end up at Pasini’s, an Italian eatery with a lunchtime pizza that did not have cheese on it. In fact, it was so delicious that I went back again for supper and had the same thing!  Sometimes you have to take what you can get!

bicheno

Bicheno’s Foreshore Footway – my route from the campground

Along the shore is a path called the Foreshore Footway that provides some excellent view – all the way from the Blowhole at the south end.  I spent an hour or more ambling along and pointing my camera in various directions. Some of the pix are below!

Bicheno shore -

Bicheno shore –

Bicheno trail above the beachfront

Bicheno Foreshore Footway just above the beachfront

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

Bicheno's rocky shoreline

Bicheno’s rocky shoreline

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

As I wandered back to the campground after my lunch at Pasini’s I passed by a shop selling water sports-related gear and supplies – but it had this unexpected item hanging in the window.  There were actually two of them – two dreamcatchers.  Long associated with Anishinaabe culture in my home province of Ontario in Canada, here they were! Okay, the hoops were plastic and not willow and the threads were plastic too and maybe the feathers were not eagle feathers  – but still!

It is quite likely that someone would be offended by this “thoughtless act of cultural misappropriation”.

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

The next day would be my biggest day yet.  Not only would I do more cycling. I would also do more of it on a road closer to the shore than had been the case.  The next post has the pix to prove it!

Next Post: From Bicheno To St. Helens

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Triabunna To Swansea

Previous Post: From Richmond To Triabunna

For a full-screen map view, click on the More options prompt in the box on the top left.

triabunna-swansea-elevation-chart

A sunny morning in Triabunna – my fortified oatmeal breakfast and two cups of coffee done, it was time to hit the road for the ride to Swansea.  I said goodbye to my Aussie neighbour who was off to Maria Island and then checked in with the American cyclist who had arrived late the previous evening and set up his tent near the entrance.  He too was off to the island – but he was taking his bicycle, which he had rented from the same Long Haul Tasmania bike rental service that I had. He said was on his way to St. Helens and I would amazingly bump into him two weeks later in Strahan on the West Coast!  It turns out that by the time he got to St. Helens he decided he had spent enough time on the bike saddle.  So – he had the bike rental company pick him and the bike up in St. Helens and he returned to Hobart where then rented a car to see the island in comfort!

Meanwhile I would spend the morning on an inland stretch of the A3.  Not a lot of pix from the first couple of hours.  It is only when you come out at Mayfield Bay – thirty-four kilometres from Triabunna – that you get some nice beach views. I took very opportunity to get off the bike and walk down to the beach.  While it is still not the open ocean crashing in on the sand – I was cycling along the west shore of Great Oyster Bay – it was still a scenic treat.  [The best single day of east coast cycling would have to wait for a couple of days until the 74-km stretch from Bicheno to St. Helens.]

my bike on the side of A3 as I set off to walk the beach between Triabunna and Swansea

my bike on the side of A3 as I set off to walk the beach between Triabunna and Swansea

the beach at Mayfield Bay on Tasmania's east coast

the beach at Mayfield Bay on Tasmania’s east coast

sand-and-rock-on-tasmanias-east-coast

tasmania-east-coast-great-oyster-bay

A bit further down the road from Mayfield Bay – a very nice stretch of scenic cycling – was the Kelvedon Beach Conservation Area. It gave me a reason to get off the bike and frame something other than pavement in my photos!

Kelvedon Beach sign - Watch Your Step!

Kelvedon Beach sign – Watch Your Step!

Kelvedon Beach East Coast Tasmania

Kelvedon Beach East Coast Tasmania

seashells on the seashore - Kelvedon Beach Tasmania

seashells on the seashore – Kelvedon Beach Tasmania

After Kelvedon Beach on to another conservation area – Spiky Beach.  There is a turn off that takes you down steeply a pot-holed gravel road to a parking lot from where you can walk there rest of the way down to the beach.  I cycled down and leaned my bike against a post and wandered down the water. Thanks to the 15mm wide-angle lens I used for the shot below, my rear wheel looks much bigger than the front one!

bike park at Spiky Beach on Tasmania's east coast

bike park at Spiky Beach on Tasmania’s east coast

path to the beach east coast Tasmania near Swansea

path to  Spiky Beach on the  east coast of Tasmania near Swansea

swansea-and-great-oyster-bay-satellite-view

Like Triabunna, Swansea had a population of about 800 and its economy also  relies heavily on tourism.  I had planned to head for the Swansea Holiday Park and put up my tent but it had clouded over dramatically in the last hour as I approached the village. I figured that the Swansea Backpackers’ Hostel would be a better place to spend a rainy night – so that’s what I did.  I found it at the far end of town right next to the Barkmill Tavern and Bakery – convenient! After checking in and dumping my stuff in my room – it was a room with four beds but since the hostel wasn’t really busy I would have the entire room to myself. I also kept my bike in the room. Then I headed back “downtown” in search of a restaurant.

Swansea's main street

Swansea’s main street

Perhaps the end of high season is the explanation for the large number of local businesses with “For Sale” signs. Take a look at the following establishments – maybe one them will strike your fancy as an investment opportunity.  Even the Backpackers’ Hostel was up for sale! In fact, when no one answered my initial ringing of the doorbell i thought it might be closed. Someone did eventually come to the door – I was the first visitor of the day and a bit early!

I eventually found a meal at the Amos House’s High Point Café.  It was off-hour but the owner was good enough to make something – it may have been a pita sandwich with hummus and tahini.

swansea-ugly-duckling-closed-and-for-sale

closed and for sale

the-horny-cray-in-swansea-for-sale

For sale

swansea-bear-cottage-for-sale

swansea-all-saints-opportunity-shop-for-sale

another Swansea building for sale

another Swansea building for sale

Swansea's Amos House and Viewpooint Café - for sale

Swansea’s Amos House and Viewpoint Café – for sale

Swansea Backpackers - for sale!

Swansea Backpackers – for sale!

I cycled back to the hostel from the Amos House in the rain. Other travellers had arrived and I was able to put my German – as rusty as it is! – to use as I talked to a couple from Chemnitz and a guy from Hamburg who was motorcycling Tasmania. I would bump into them again a week or two later. Given that Tasmania as a total population of 500,000,  I guess it’s not that unusual!

my room at the Swansea Backpachers - with three empty beds

my room at the Swansea Backpackers – with three empty beds

It rained most of that night and I was glad not to be in my tent at the campground on the other end of the village.  By the next morning  the rain was stopped and I would have sunshine with a bit of wind as I made my way 43 kilometers up the coast to Bicheno and a tent spot at the Bicheno East Coast Holiday Park.

Next Post: From Swansea To Bicheno

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Richmond to Triabunna

Previous Post: From Hobart To Richmond 

Click here to zoom in or out of the Google interactive map.

richmond-to-triabunna

Leaving the  Caravan Park around 8,  I rolled down Richmond’s main street and stopped at the one open gas station and bought a bottle of sugar water for the ride.  In my brief chat with the attendant I learned that the Prossers Road that I was headed for was not the  best choice; he recommended the somewhat longer but paved B31 to C350 (Fingerpost Road)  and then along C350 to the junction with the Tasman Highway (A3).  So that is what I did.  The pix below show the relatively flat terrain for at least the first hour of the day’s ride.

richmond-to-fingerpost-road-c350

the road not taken – Prossers Road – on the advice of the gas station guy!

b31-c350-junction-richmond-tasmania

B31/C350 junction north of Richmond, Tasmania

looking east down C350 near Campania

looking east down C350 near Campania

pastoral-scene-on-the-side-of-c350-on-the-way-to-buckland

pastoral scene on the side of C350 on the way to Buckland

I got to Buckland for lunch, having done what would turn out to be the two biggest climbs of my east coast ride to St. Helens. From the top of Bust-Me_Gall Hill it was a rewarding downhill roll to the Buckland Roadhouse and a veggie burger and fries.  As the pix make clear there is not a lot of paved shoulder for a cyclist to claim as his own.  However, I saw maybe a dozen cars until I hit the A3 .  I pretty much had these secondary roads to myself while the nearby A3 – the main highway – was undoubtedly much busier.

flat stretch of C350 on the way to Black Charles Opening and Buckland

flat stretch of C350 on the way to Black Charles Opening and Buckland

the top of the day's first bump - Black Charles Opening at 296 m

the top of the day’s first bump – Black Charles Opening at 296 m

at the top of the second of the day's two hills on C350 north of Richmond

at the top of the second of the day’s two hills on C350 north of Richmond

After lunch I continued on the A3, known as the Tasman Highway.  It serves as the alternative coastal route between Hobart and Launceston, the state’s two biggest towns.  Finally, as I approached Orford, I got to see some major water!

Orford sits on Prosser Bay. As I stood there and looked east beyond the bay across the Tasman Sea,  I imagined New Zealand’s South Island, specifically the West Coast highway I had cycled down a couple of years ago.

orford-tasmania-to-new-zealand-south-island-west-coast

1800 kilometers or more separate the two coasts but as raw and wild as N.Z.’s West Coast is, Tassie’s east coast would prove to be tame and gentle. [Click here to access my  N.Z. “Down The West Coast” post.]

my bike on the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

my bike on the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

my first beach shot on Tasmania's east coast near Orford

my first beach shot on Tasmania’s east coast near Orford

view from the side of A3 at Prosser Bay.jpg

view from the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

My introduction to the beaches of the east coast would be short. From Orford the road cuts inland across a small peninsula before running along the west shore of Spring Bay to my target for the day – Triabunna (population: 800) . Given the dependably mild east coast weather and the scenery, it is a popular tourist destination as well as a retirement community. Triabunna harbour serves as the home dock for a small fishing fleet  as well as the departure point for the ferry over to Maria (Mah-rye-ah) Island, a national park and nature sanctuary.

Just off of the A3 is the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park. I would make myself at home under the tree you see in the photo below.  My fairly lightweight Kelty Zen tent up and my gear put inside, I went for a walk down the two blocks that make up main street. At the local IGA (a grocery store chain) I got some fresh fruit, bread, and other consumables

satellite-view-of-triabunna-tasmania

my tent spot at the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park -east coast Tasmania

my tent spot at the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park

A couple of hours later  a solo motorcyclist pulled up and set up a hammock and tarp next to me.  He was from Melbourne and was on a one-week ramble in Tasmania and was headed over to Maria Island the next morning – without his bike, which he would leave at the Caravan Park.  We wandered down to the Fish Van; he oohed and aahed about the fried fish while I made do with an order of fries! It was slim pickings for a someone intent on being vegan in a fishing town!

Triabunna cottage on Main Street

Triabunna cottage on Main Street

warehouses by the Maria Island ferry stop at Triabunna

warehouses by the Maria Island ferry stop at Triabunna

Maria island Ferry dock in Triabunna

Maria island Ferry dock in Triabunna

looking north down Spring Bay from the Triabunna Ferry landing

looking north down Spring Bay from the Triabunna Ferry landing

Triabunna-Maria Island Satellite shot

Triabunna-Maria Island Satellite view

With more time – or without the commitments I had created by pre-booking my accommodation in a few of the upcoming towns – a visit to Maria island would certainly have been worth it.  Here is the enticing write-up in the Lonely Planet guide-book I had with me –

“Maria is laced with impressive scenery: curious cliffs, fern-draped forests, squeaky-sand beaches and azure seas. Forester kangaroos, wombats and wallabies wander around; grey-plumed Cape Barren geese honk about on the grasslands; and an insurance population of Tasmanian devils has been released and is thriving. Below the water there’s also lots to see, with good snorkelling and diving in the clear, shallow marine reserve.”

Excerpt From: Lonely Planet. “Lonely Planet   Tasmania.”

Sounds pretty neat, eh!   There is camping available on the island and bicycles (“push bikes”) are allowed. It looks like an enchanting spot to explore for a couple of days. Maria Island is just one of perhaps a half-dozen parks and nature preserves along Tasmania’s east coast around which you could fashion a fantastic two or three-week retreat. With your own tent and gear you’d be all set.  If you didn’t have a bike at the ready, the bus connections from town to town are adequate so there would be no need to rent your own vehicle.   It would only sit  around unused  most of the time!  Maybe there is another visit to Tasmania forming in my mind!

Instead, my next day to Swansea on the A3 would be a mix of coastal scenery, ending with a nice ride from the Rocky Hills to my room for the night at the Swansea Backpackers Hostel,  getting there just in time to beat the first rain storm of the trip. See the details in the next post!

Next Post: Triabunna To Swansea (51 km.)

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Hobart To Richmond Via Bonorong

Previous Post:   Doin’ Time In Van Diemen’s Land –  Tasmania By Push Bike!

 Day 1: Morning – From Hobart to The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Click on blue More Options prompt for full screen view of Google Map

hobart-bonorong

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.

my loaded Surly bike in front of the Narrara Backpackers' Hostel in Hobart

my loaded Surly bike in front of the Narrara Backpackers’ Hostel in Hobart

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!

close-up of my loaded Surly bike in front of the Narrara Backpackers' Hostel in Hobart

close-up of my loaded Surly LHT (Long Haul Trekker) bike with 26″ wheels and Ortlieb panniers

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.

intercity-bike-train-hobart-to-clairmont

See here for a downloadable pdf file of the path, as well as gpx and kml files

hobart-harbour-8-a-m-sunday

Hobart Harbour on a Sunday morning at 8:00

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 road to Richmond via Bonorong

the road to Richmond via Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

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.

a view of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart

a view of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart

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.

Bonorong local on the fence

Bonorong local on the fence

same-bird-different-angle-at-bonorong-sanctuary

wombat in the arms of one of the guides at Bonorong

wombat in the arms of one of the guides at Bonorong

a couple of Tasmanian devils sniffing about their enclosure

a couple of Tasmanian devils sniffing about their enclosure

Bonorong kangaroo with snout way too close to my lens!.jpg

Bonorong Forester kangaroo with snout way too close to my lens!

Bonorong kangaroo chillin' in the shade

Bonorong kangaroo chillin’ in the shade

Tasmanian devil tugging at a piece of meat and bone

Tasmanian devil tugging at a piece of meat and bone

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.

Tasmanian Devil up close

Tasmanian Devil up close

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.

bonorong-richmond

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!

pit stop on the way to Richmond from Bonorong

pit stop on the way to Richmond from Bonorong

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.

richmnond-cabin-and-tourist-park

richmond-tasmania

Click here for if you want to see where I got the two above Google satellite images.

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.

Richmond Bridge over the Coal River

Richmond Bridge over the Coal River

Richmond, Tasmania - road bridge over the Coal River

Richmond, Tasmania – road bridge over the Coal 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 –

Next Post: From Richmond To Triabunna

A Boat Cruise To The Bottom of Tasmania’s Bruny Island

Previous Post: Bicycling From Hobart To Bruny Island

Along with beautiful beaches and a laid-back atmosphere, Bruny Island offers visitors the chance to take an unforgettable boat ride down the coast of the island to its southern tip. Twice a day Bruny Island Cruises craft sets off with thirty or so passengers on a two-to-three-hour adventure. The cruise regularly makes it into lists of Australia’s top tourist experiences.  This YouTube video gives an excellent idea of the trip; just remember that you’ll be in that boat and not in the airplane used to film many of the stunning aerial views!

Leaving Adventure Bay at 11:15 a.m. or at 2:15  in the afternoon, the boats travel about thirty kilometers down to the Friars, a collection of islands and rocky outcrops and the home of a number of fur seal colonies, before turning back for Adventure Bay.

bruny-island-cruise-route

Here is a promotional photo of one of the company’s boats.  Note the red rain gear – it is supplied by the crew after you board the vessel;  wool caps and gloves are loaned out at the welcome center at no extra cost. Given the strong wind blowing from the south and the choppy water that day,  I would make use of them all for the extra warmth and water protection they provided.

Bruny Island Cruises boat – see here for image source

Since the morning trip was sold out, I bought a ticket for the afternoon cruise.  At $120. it is not cheap but it is $15. cheaper than the morning outing.  I am not sure what the difference is or if there is an advantage – in terms of water roughness – in taking one or the other.  (Spoiler alert!  The sixty-kilometer round trip would prove to be worth the cost. When you consider the salaries of the three experienced and capable crew members, the cost and maintenance of the boat, the insurance…well, you would have to wonder how someone could do it all for $60!)

small cave entrances in the Bruny Island cliff face

The boat left Adventure Bay and rounded the point around the outside of  Penguin Island and made its way down along the coast.  One of the main attractions of the trip is the dramatic cliff face – sometimes vertical columns of dolerite stretching up for one hundred meters , sometimes caves and holes and passages created by the incessant pounding of the waves over time.

looking into a passage eroded through the rock

looking into a passage eroded through the rock

another view of the above passageway

another view of the above passageway – lichen covers some of the rock face

Bird life is plentiful; on our way down the coast we passed a number of spots that seemed to be favoured by seagulls, cormorants, shearwaters, and other birds. In the image below, nobody was home but signs of their presence was evident!

bird poop covers the perches on a cliff face

bird poop covers the perches on a cliff face

We passed by the dramatic dolerite columns below and stopped for a photo-op, the boat circling around slowly to give passengers on both sides of the boat  a chance to get a shot or two.

pillars of sandstone on Bruny Island - testament to the power of the waves

pillars of dolerite on Bruny Island – testament to the power of the waves

short section of Bruny Island's vertical cliff face

short section of Bruny Island’s vertical cliff face

At times the spray from the waves was such that we got lightly showered; my cameras were tucked safely away under my red overcoat.  Occasional stops for various geological features like blowholes or the columns above were moments when the cameras came out we all snapped madly away.

fellow travellers at work with their cameras

fellow travellers at work with their cameras

a group shot with the Bruny Island cliffs in the background

a group shot with the Bruny Island cliffs in the background

My Sony Nex-3N had a 16-50 mm zoom on it, while my Sony A6000 had the 55-210 mm.  All of the above shots were taken with the more wide-angle zoom.  I was also hoping to get some shots with my telephoto.

Isla Magdalena penguins up close

Isla Magdalena penguins up close

A couple of year ago I visited a penguin colony and a sea-lion colony in the Strait of Magellan not far from Punta Arenas at the bottom of South America. While we did get to walk among the penguins and it was easy to get close-up shots, I was later frustrated with the limitations of my lens when we passed by Marta Island and the sea lions.

sea lions on Isla Marta near Punta Arenas

sea lions on Isla Marta

The 16-80 mm lens on my dslr just didn’t zoom in close enough.  I was later reduced to cropping the images in my Adobe Lightroom app to make them seem more immediate. As the following image on shows, it still was not close enough!

Isla sea lions lounging on the beach

Isla sea lions lounging on the beach

This time the 55-210 lens on my Sony A6000 would allow me to get real close-ups of any wildlife we encountered. I did increase the iso to 1600 and sometimes to 3200 in order to  have faster film speeds and compensate for the rocking boat.  I did see iPhones snapping away at the same time and wondered how those shots would turn out!  Here is what my telephoto zoom lens was able to deliver –

Where in the world is Waldo the Australian Fur Seal?

the terraces on a rock face on one of the Friars (set of islands off the Bruny mainland)

the terraces on a rock face on one of the Friars (set of islands off the Bruny mainland)

Near the southern tip of Bruny Island is a collection of islands and rocky outcrops called The Friars.  It would prove to be the highlight of our trip.  While the seagull below was easy to see, on first looking at the above scene, I did not notice the fur seals!  Take a look at the cliff face above and see how many you can pick out! (There are eleven in all!)

sea gull on rock ledge

sea-gull on rock ledge

We would spend some fifteen minutes or so with these fur seals, stopping in front of a couple of different terrace rock outcrops where they were lounging in various states of alertness.

solitary fur seal on a Friars rock ledge

solitary fur seal on a Friars rock ledge

two more fur seals on the rock ledges of the Friars

two more fur seals on the rock ledges of the Friars

fur seals taking note of the visitors

fur seals taking note of the visitors

a closer up of the fur seal on the left in the above image

a closer up of the fur seal on the left in the above image

I later learned that the fur seals we were looking at belonged to the Australian Fur Seal species, one of seven in the Arctocephalus genus which are found mostly in the southern hemisphere.  They did look different for the true seals – for example, the harp seals and grey seals of the waters off the coast of Newfoundland – that  I am familiar with.  Like the Canadian seal the Australian seal (Arctocephalus Pusillus)  was  once the focus of a thriving seal hunt.

australian_seal_species_map

Australian seal species map – see here for map source

As the map indicates, there is another species of Arctocephalus – the New Zealand or  forsteri – found in Tasmanian waters.  I am assuming that the ones we saw that day were the more common Australian ones. Let me know if you can spot any of the forsteri species on the rocks.

nine fur seals and a sea gull on the rocks of The Friars off Bruny island

nine fur seals and a sea-gull on the rocks of The Friars off Bruny island

five fur seals look back at the creatures in the boat

five fur seals look back at the creatures in the boat

eight more fur seals chillin' on the rock - The Friars - Bruny Island

eight more fur seals chillin’ on the rock – The Friars – Bruny Island

another half-dozen fur seals on the rock of The Friars off Bruny Island

another half-dozen fur seals on the rock of The Friars off Bruny Island

three fur seals hanging out on the rock of the Friars - Bruny island

three fur seals hanging out on the rock of the Friars – Bruny island

Leaving The Friars, we headed back for Adventure Bay, moving a bit faster than on our way down.  To make the trip complete we would encounter a few dolphins as they swam along the boat or in the boat’s wake.  Given the wind and the rocking motion of the boat,  I did not bother pulling my camera out from underneath the raincoat  to attempt a shot. As it was, the dolphins tended to pop up unexpectedly and disappear just as quickly.  It was a thrill just to see them without worrying about capturing the moment!

the ride back after dolphin watching

the ride back after dolphin watching

Shortly after four we were back on shore.  The consensus of the people I spoke to – while a sunnier and calmer day would have been nice, it was definitely a worthwhile experience that we were happy to have signed up for!