Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK

Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK
Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK

Friday, April 14, 2017

...With A Side of Humble Pie

Can I Get An Ass Whoopin’ With a Side of Humble Pie?


Cycling the Tasmanian Trail


Started out innocuous enough, a quick 240 mile ride across Tasmania. The Tasmanian Trail Association website gave a brief overview and offered some photos. They suggested buying their online guide book for twenty six dollars. But I could only do that by joining the association for a yearly membership. That would cost thirty bucks more. By joining the association and buying the guide book, I could also download the most recent GPX file to my phone or my GPS. It also gave me the option to “rent” a key that opened all the gates that I would have to pass through. It would be a total of about seventy six dollars.

I elected to forgo all that. I’m a cheap skate and didn’t want to spend the money. I asked myself, “How difficult could it be?” After all I reasoned I rode the Baja Divide with not too much trouble. I used both my phone and GPS to navigate with an open source download. The folks that provided the GPX also wrote up some detailed notes on distances, resupply locations and notes on water. All this I took for granted.

The day came and I set off. My friends gave me a ride to Dover farther south on the Island. It was still
early when I got on my bike by the water and began following the GPX track I downloaded from an open source. I found it in an article in an online magazine written two years ago. I like to think I’m pretty smart. There was this needling in the back of my mind. It was the feeling of knowing the route may have changed in two years. Never the less, the first two kilometers were easy enough. I came to the huge “Welcome to the Tasmanian Trail” sign at the bottom of a huge, steep hill. I started climbing and came to my first gate. It was fairly new and I being on the downhill side the top of the gate was level with my chin or thereabouts. I had to take the two full food bags off the front forks to lift it. It was tough work. Climbed some more and came to the second gate. Same thing, remove food bags and lift the bike etc. When I crested the hill, the trail all but disappeared.

My GPS said it was right here! Not s sign. The trail just disappeared into tall grass. I’d heard all about Australia’s numerous venomous snakes. Australia boasts seven or nine of the world’s most deadly or some such statistic. I think Tasmania only has three.

So there I go poking around in grass up to my waist. All the while calling out, “Here snaky, snaky”! I didn’t want to surprise anybody.
After about forty five minutes of this, I did find what may have been an old trail but there was an enormous gumtree down across it. There was no going over, around or under it with the bike. After about ninety minutes, I finally gave up. I was just in the wrong place. But if this wasn’t trail, then where the hell was it?

I headed back down the hill and back over the two gates. I was feeling quite dejected. I needed a plan B. After some deliberation and asking around in town I was directed to a beach about five miles away where I found some camping on the bluffs overlooking a stunning bay.

After lots of texting and phone calls back to my friends in Hobart, we came up with Plan B.

The next day my friend John drove all the way back to Dover from Hobart with the missing pieces of information. In a few short hours he had managed to join the association, rent the key, and download the guidebook and current GPX to his laptop. Boy did I feel like a total dunce!

 I put my bike in the car and got on the computer while John drove trying to find the new trailhead. In the meantime I put it all the online info into an email and sent it to myself.

I know that planning is not one of my strong suits. I have a better understanding of why now.
When faced with lots of pieces of information in a short amount of time, I think my brain just sort of short circuits. What I try to pass off as whimsical and carefree is really feeling overwhelmed with information and putting it into a useful semblance of a plan.

We found the new trailhead and the route followed forest tracks through some wet, rainy conditions. We drove on to Geevesport. This is a lovely little town up the trail another twenty miles or so. It always amazes me how much more distance one can cover in an automobile. Now, armed with the right route, info AND the key, I was really on my way.

From south to north the trail climbs steadily for days. There was more than one day, where I was walking and pushing much of the days ride. It was steep, rocky, and muddy at times.

There was one or two days where a forest road became a track, became a trail and then disappeared into tall grass. On these sections I had to watch for fence posts with the tell-tale bright yellow and red triangles that mark the trail. There were a few sections of the trail where I didn’t see many other people at all. 

On the way were gum tree forests, creeks, small towns and very cool bird life. I saw flocks of yellow tail black cockatoos. It is an impressively large and loud bird. I saw and heard numerous other colorful birds that I have not yet learned the names of. They were the one constant on this ride. I was fortunate enough in the north on the coast to see one Little Penguin. They come up on the beach and bluffs to nest in their burrows. I had no idea that some penguins nested in burrows. There are truly wondrous and remarkable things going on out there in the big world.

I did see one live short beaked echidna. It almost looks like a small porcupine (for my North American friends) with a long snout and a tongue that captures insects. It is classified as a monotreme. A monotreme looks like a mammal but reproduces by laying eggs. That’s evolution in extreme isolation folks!  It’s a fascinating animal. I feel lucky to have seen one. 
Sadly, the only other wildlife I saw was all road kill.
It was disconcerting to be on mostly quiet low volume roads with folks that drive steep, windy roads at high speed. There seemed to be zero concern for wildlife in Tasmania. On the days when the sun came out and it was warm, the smell of rotting carcasses seemed to pervade the air. I know that sounds gross. And as most people don’t seem to go anywhere without being inside a motor vehicle they don’t notice this. There was one big ass spider living in one of the trail registry boxes. I pulled out the book and there it was!
IN my mind, it certainly qualifies as wildlife. And it wasn't road kill. It was kind of flat between the pages of the book and looked dead. I nudged it with one foot and it ran across my other foot. It was very much alive! It's a common Huntsman.

The highest point on the ride is in the Central Lakes District. This is some of the more remote and most exposed country in Tasmania. It is alpine and sub-alpine scrub. Unfortunately, when I arrived there the weather had deteriorated. It was very windy and blustery. I saw the rain coming from a long way off. Maybe I’m a little overly cautious but rain and wind is a bad combination. And there was a whole lot of nothing out there. I moved to lower elevations quickly. I got a ride for part of it which was good. There was the thickest fog I had ever seen. It was truly dense. We could barely see the front of the pickup truck at times.

I reached Devonport in the center of the north coast
twelve days after leaving Dover in the south. Devonport is smaller much more quiet than Hobart. 

I was a bit surprised by this. The Spirit of Tasmania Ferry that connects Tasmania to the mainland of Australia calls in to Devonport.  Most of the vehicular traffic coming off or getting on the ferry are caravans and travelers.

I booked my passage on the ferry for two days hence. The cost of my bike was five dollars. I had to return to Hobart and retrieve some of the things I had left there with my friends. I’m sure I could have avoided the round trip from Devonport if I had “planned” differently. But there it is again that pesky planning thing.

I’ve learned a thing or two. At least I hope I have. The next chapter will take me north through Victoria to the Murray River and then west toward Adelaide. That’s a plan right? I did buy a paper map. 
For more information check out:

Special thanks and gratitude to the people of Tasmania; John and Alison in Hobart; John, Shirley and Peter Tongue of Devonport; Karen Moore cyclist extraordinaire and everyone else who is supporting me on this incredible journey.

Thanks for reading.  

No comments: