Day 295 to Day 302 – Tasmania Part 1

Day 295
Sunday 24th January
Sydney to Tasmania

Really bad nights sleep we didn’t go to bed until 11.00pm and I was awake at 1.30am we were both awake by 3,00am, on a positive note at least we were ready for our shuttle bus which pitched up at 5.00am, which is just as well as Gary had set the alarm for wrong time.

We flew with Jet Star and they were brilliant even though our luggage was over weight they did not charge us excess duty as we had already upgraded to the maximum amount allowed on line. I had worried about this our flights had been a bargain at £117 but this could have increased considerably if they’d wanted to be jobs worths.

I was also worried about landing in Tasmania with the bikes and the tent as we had been told that the customs officers scrutinised everything coming in from abroad as they were worried about contamination to their soil. We were so happy when we landed as not only was their no customs their was no passport control to go through. We simply collected our luggage and proceeded to put the bikes up outside of the airport. As we were putting the bikes and panniers together several people approached us to inform us about a bike port specially built for bicycles – how cool is that, unfortunately we had already unloaded the boxes and bags so it would have been a hassle to move.

The cycle ride down to Launceston Town was interesting, there was a lane/hard shoulder for cyclists and although the road was fairly busy we felt safe. We saw a lot of road kill including wallabies or possums it was hard to tell. In the trees we could hear unfamiliar bird calls which Gary found hard to mimic. The road was clean and well marked so it was an easy ride to our hotel.

Launceston Town was also clean and quiet for a city but this could have been because it was a Sunday. We couldn’t check in until 2.00pm so we went to explore and to purchase some things for camping. After 3 hours of wandering around we managed to purchase everything we needed for this stage of our trip although I’m sure we will think of other things as we spend more time camping.

On route we found a very knowledgeable and helpful tourist information centre, we were provided with maps and recommendations by two very lovely ladies.

In the afternoon I tried desperately to order Hayley a birthday card and gift on line for her birthday and try to upload the photos to the internet but the computer didn’t want to play. I spent hours deleting stuff from the computer and then at least an hour trying to find somewhere with a decent internet access. I eventually found a hotel bar but of course it would have been rude no to order a drink so I had a pint tp calm my nerves whilst I struggled to do the tasks for the day.

Gary. I explored a popular nearby gorge, up a zig zag step dirt track and ended up at a large natural lake in the middle of the river. there was an open air swimming pool by the lakes edge and it was all fee. there was a cable car which would take you over the lake, but I walked around over to a suspension bridge that wobbled and swung in the wind. the area was really pretty and as the weather was nice it was also very well used with swimmers in the pool and the lake.

We met early evening and went for a pint and something to eat, neither of particularly liked our food, I had breaded calamari with salad, the calamari was deep fried and the mayonnaise sauce was very creamy and rich, Gary had Chicken and salad but it looked like preprepared chicken you can by at a supermarket. The beer (one pint each) and the food came to £35!! we won’t be eating out much in Taz.

Day 296
Monday 25th January
Launceston to Bridport
50 hilly miles

Woke early after a good nights sleep, we made use of the hostels kitchen and made ourselves some porridge before setting off. We had a couple of tasks to complete before leaving Launceston including seeking advice at the computer shop (as I had expected I need a bigger hard drive or an external hard drive, who would have thought 8880 pictures would take up so much memory), advice from the flight shop re flights back to the UK (travel agent is now on the job and kindly agreed to send me a quote and buying some fresh veg for camping (done, we also purchased an external drive for the computer)

The cycle ride was very hilly all day which was hard on the legs and head and there were few cafes or shops on route. The scenery was not that dissimilar to areas in England, lovely rolling hills with small farm buildings but the stark difference was the colour of the fields which instead of being an array of brilliant greens they were burnt yellow and brown imagine England during a prolonged heat wave and I think it will give you a fell of this area of Tasmania. There are at least 80 bush fires burning across Taz and it is easy to see how easy it would be to start one of these.

Unfortunately for us I think we’ve missed the heat wave the temperature has dropped to the low 20’s and at several points we had to put jumpers on. The other noticeable differences are the amount of road kill in Taz including wallabies, tasmanian devils, wallabies and kangaroos all of which smell awful and attract lots of flies, not pleasant at all. What did amuse us is the Tasmanians attitude to road rules both pedestrians and drivers stick to them as if their lives depend on it. We have seen pedestrians refusing to cross the road until the green man says so even though the road is clear and drivers refusing to overtake us because there are double white lines down the road and they can’t get passed unless they cross them, even when theres no traffic on the other side of the road. We seem to have gone from one extreme to the other. The other amusing thing we’ve seen is the number of road signs for towns from across the UK, so far we have cycled through Dorset and seen signs for Exeter and stayed in Bridport.

In the afternoon we went through a village called Lilllidale where the locals had painted the bottom of lamp posts with interesting designs, it was done as a novel way of attracting tourists to the town.

We arrived at our campsite quite late it had gone 5.00pm but we had set off late and had stopped for a home made lunch by the roadside and breaks on route. After a long conversation with the two men running the site we were allocated a pitch (although here it is called a site, I’m not sure what they call the whole site). Our pitch is overlooking the sea and as I wrote this update I could hear the waves crashing on the shore. It was a pretty campsite which was popular with campers and caravans, it was not cheap at £13 a night and the facilities are quite poor i.e. no where to wash dirty plates and no shop on site although we are close to supermarkets in the town.

Once the tent was pitched and we’d showered we quickly made a dinner as there was big black rain clouds threatening to burst overhead. We made a noodle dish with fresh veg and tinned tuna it was surprisingly tasty and filling.

In the evening we went in search of wifi and somewhere to charge devices, we found a hotel bar but it was noisy, no wifi and the beer was expensive so we had a pint and headed back to the tent for a peppermint tea and an early night. Just as well we didn’t drink much as the toilet block was quite a way from the tent and the site was too busy to squat down outside.

On the way to the bar we met two Tasmanians from Hobart who were also trying to cycle around Tasmania but had wanted to go up the west coast but had to change plans because of the bush fires. We’re hoping the bush fires will have finished before we reach the west of the island but having spoken to a number of Ozzies we may choose to miss this section or hire a car as apparently it is very rugged and baron all up the west coast.

Day 297, Tues 26th Jan.
Brigport to Pioneer, 50 miles.

Slept remarkably well considering we haven’t slept in the tent in a long while, this was probably because it was a lot cooler outside and we were both knackered.

Woke to the sound of the sea, a sound you could never get bored of, it was beautiful.

We went for a short walk on the beach and contemplated whether to stay on the site for another night so that we could celebrate Australia day with the locals. We decided against it, we’ve seen the programme of events and it looks a bit like a glorified sports day which I am sure would be great fun if you’d been on the camp for a few days or had your family and friends with you. We’re still getting used to being around loud, rowdy english speaking people. Last night in the pub it was hard to hear each other, when I was having a shower a mother and daughter were having a real humdinger of an argument (the girl was about 7 years old) and this morning I heard a mother shout to her son ‘come here you little shit’ all of which might have seemed normal had we have come direct from the UK but I think it will take awhile to adjust having come from quiet Asia.

Before setting off we stopped at the supermarket for some supplies the people in Tasmania are very friendly and genuinely do use the words ‘all right mate’ and ‘no worries’ and end their conversations with ‘see you later’ it is quite amusing but I bet by the time we come home we will have adopted some of these sayings.

The cycle ride was hard going, the road was very hilly and we had a head wind most of the way. Added to this we now have extra weight on the bikes from the cooking stuff including a new Tefal frying pan . If that wasn’t enough of a challenge there were no cafes or shops for the first 40 miles! Fortunately we had adequate stores of food and water to keep us going.

We had lunch by the side of the road, pitta breads with cheese, onion, tomatoes and mushrooms along with some crisps and some fizzy lemon juice. It was really good especially as I’ve learnt how to keep the flies at bay whilst I’m eating, it may not look cool but a sarong over my head did the trick.

After lunch we ended up cycling on a very gravelly bumpy road for 10 miles, which was made worse by the passing traffic throwing up huge amounts of dust. I had my sunglasses on which provided some protection but unfortunately Gary has broken his so really struggled to see the road ahead.
Gary, It was bumpy enough for my tent to fall of so I had to strap and tie it back on.

Today was another day of seeing a lot of road kill which were simply gross, most were big mammals some of unknown origins but most looked like wallabies or kangaroos. On a more positive note we did get to see a lot of big noisy birds that we didn’t recognise (I think they are called cock or twos, Gary) and towards the end of the afternoon I got to see my first live Kangaroo, they’re huge I hope we don’t have one of them jump out in front of us.

Tasmania is vast we could see for miles whilst we were cycling for most of the day we had fields on either side of us some containing sheep others bulls and cows.
Gary, by late afternoon we were heading south and into the hills and green forests.

We wild camped by a lake and we have the pace all to ourselves, Gary took advantage and had a very quick skinny dip I chose to have a discreet strip wash. It had been a warm day but it turned much cooler in the evening. We made a homemade vegetable chilli con carne for dinner with rice, we cooked a little too much but it was very tasty and none of it went to waste. We only have one cooking device as there is a complete ban on fires in Tasmania but we were creative and steamed the potatoes and onions over the rice and once the rice was cooked added the other ingredients to make the chilli.
Gary, the water filter came in handy today, we used the lake water for cooking and hot drinks.

No wifi again, Gary couldn’t even get a signal with his phone it is hard to describe how remote and wild Tasmania is. We are staying just off a town but in the town there were only a handful of houses, no shops, police station, library or pub.
Day 298, 27th January
Pioneer to St Helens
50 miles

What a miserable wet cold and windy day!

It started well we woke by the lake, it was so peaceful that we had a leisurely breakfast and took our time to pack up the tent. It had been remarkably quiet in the night so we had both slept well and felt refreshed for the day ahead.

As Gary packed away the tent he found a baby scorpion hiding in our ground sheet just as well he found it and not my bum I’d been sitting on the ground sheet less than half an hour before he found it.

The morning was cold and hilly and by midday it was wet and windy. We stopped for a tea break at about 12 o’clock and met two men who were also cycling around Tasmania they’d started in Hobart and were cycling anti clockwise whereas we’re cycling clockwise. One of the guys was from America and the other from New South Wales. We bumped into them again in the evening and a drink with them whilst we shared travel stories.
Gary; these guys had met while taking part in a cycle trek 11000k down through south America so had some interesting tales.

Just after we set off we pulled off the road to see a chinese monument that had been erected in recognition of the chinese men who had lost their lives during the tin mining industry at the end of the 19th century. The monument was a very unstated affair compared to the monuments we’ve seen on route but it did contain a lot of history. It was hard to imagine a thriving industry as we stood next to the monument which was in a desolate area with only one house in sight.

We have seen some very run down houses as we’ve cycled through Tasmania, some with no windows or made from basic products. They’re not in the same league as the poverty we saw in Laos but in contrast they’re often very isolated houses with nothing around for miles. We saw one yesterday which was clearly inhabited but it had makeshift windows and holes in the ceiling. I couldn’t help thinking about the family that lived there as we cycled along in the cold and rain.

Later that morning we passed a enchilada, although he initially hid his head we waited and we were rewarded by seeing him scuttle off into the bush.

Our next stop was for lunch, we were drenched and cold and appreciated the hot drinks, toasties and chips which were at a reasonable price of £6 much cheaper than Launceston had been, but still far more expensive than Asia.

With only 18 miles to go it should have been easy but we were cold and wet so it seemed like hard work. We had to stop half way as Gary’s chain jammed which was a pain but Gary managed to release it.

Once we arrived in St Helen’s we stopped at the library to use the wifi, we’d already agreed that we would book into a hotel as it was still raining and the forecast was for heavy rain over night.

The cheapest hotel we could find was £50 a night on a room only basis, we did consider the camping option but decided to book and dry everything out as we are in for another 4 or 5 days of rain. I am beginning to regret suggesting Tasmania, it is very hilly, wet and cold without many cafes or shops.

To save money we bought some pot noodle type dishes from the supermarket which we supplemented with mushrooms tomotoes and tuna, we also have some cheese and biscuits very nice they were too.

Whilst having a drink in a cafe with our new cycle friends who happened to be in the same hotel, the electricity supply went off this meant that over 100 people could not be served their meals and no one could get petrol from the station. On our way back to the hotel we couldn’t help but notice that all the shops had closed this included the local take away and the bottle shops. No electricity seemed to suggest the town simply shut up shop.

As we watched a bit of TV we caught a news bulletin which showed the weather for Tasmania it would appear the East coast, where we are, have been put on flood alert due to the expected rain fall whereas the west coast are struggling to manage the bush fires.

Day 299
St Helens to Bicheno
50 miles

Had a bad nights sleep kept awake by the noisy fridge and heater in the bathroom at 2.00am I got up and turned both off and dozed then until about 6.30am

We decided to make use of the wifi in the reception area but most frustratingly we couldn’t contact Hayley to wish her a happy birthday, couldn’t upload the external drive and my iPod wouldn’t charge up so we were limited with what we could do.

Once the shops opened Gary busied himself doing the shopping whilst I went to see a local computer repair man. It turned out I needed a new cable for my laptop and a new external drive as the one I’d bought in Launceston only 3 days ago was faulty. Tasmania is turning out to be very expensive. In addition to the money spent in the computer shop we also spent £30 in a clothes shop for 2 pack a macs our coats were rubbish in the rain so hopefully these will give us a little more cover.
Gary; there was a small bakery so I bought 2 pasties for breakfast and fell over in shock when i had to pay $10 (£5), I am sure we will get used to these prices again but having spent so long in Asia everything seems so overpriced. One of the mistakes of this trip was not bringing our high vis cycle waterproofs, we purchased some waterproof coats from an outdoor shop in the UK so we could blend in better if we had to wear them in the evenings as well. The coats we only hold out the rain for about an hour and after that you are soaked inside and out, hence the need to buy some macs to go over theses poor quality jackets.

As I sat in the foyer doing a little bit of computer work I could hear the reception taking calls, one was from a local news station wanting to book 3 nights so that they could cover the flooding in the area. It had rained pretty much non stop through out the night and was still raining heavily when we woke up. Fortunately it had stopped by the time we set off and we kept our fingers crossed and hoped dry a dryish day.

We’d only been on the road for about 6 miles when we decided to stop for lunch it was almost 12.00 but more importantly we stumbled on a beautiful bay. We had some more cheese and onion wraps with olives and crisps it was all very tasty.

The cycling was much easier than the previous two days, the road was still undulating but it stayed dry and our efforts were rewarded with some stunning coastal views. The sea was crashing to the shore it was lovely to watch as we cycled along.

Gary had more trouble with his bike, this time his pedal fell off! just as well he’s an engineer as he was able to do a temporary repair but we will need to stop at a bike shop when we see one.
Gary; the bearing in the pedal had disintegrated so I had to improvise by using a washer from a spare brake pad in its place, it has worked well so far but is only a temporary repair.

We saw a wallaby and lots of parakeets today, the noises whilst cycling are a constant reminder that you’re in a different country, the birds often sound like monkeys or crying children as they fly overhead.

We cycled passed a number of picturesque bays and through a couple of seaside towns. The ‘towns’ were all very small and had houses that looked a bit like mobile homes on stilts nothing like our seaside towns not a tacky arcade or amusement park in sight. In fact we didn’t even see a cafe, shop or second hand shop. It would be impossible to live in some of these places without a car it is hard to imagine what happens to elderly people with no family as we haven’t seen any care homes either perhaps these are all built slightly in land.

We arrived in Bicheno at about 5.30 as it was quite late and I was hungry and thiirsty (Feed me, feed me now) we headed straight for the supermarket. It is really hard to buy anything when everything is so expensive, hopefully next week we will have become accustomed to paying these prices, on the upside it will help us to adjust to the UK. In fact I think it is cheaper to eat and drink in the UK than it is in Tasmania. The only thing we have found cheaper so far are their houses, it would appear you could purchase a decent 3 bed detached house for approx £200,000 but we don’t know if there are any hidden costs that get tagged onto this price

Whilst I shopped Gary talked to other tourists in the area first a woman who was touring using a camper van and was out for a short cycle ride and then a young woman who was touring Tasmania on her own on her bike. People are very friendly whilst I was shopping I also got talking to a man who was visiting the area who was interested in our route.

Once we left the supermarket the race was on, the rain was coming in and to beat it we needed to work together to pitch the tent. Usually this is Gary’s domain and I’m responsible for unloading the bags and putting the bedding together, It was tight but we won. Fortunately their was an undercover kitchen on site where we could cook our meal before showering and venturing out in the rain to explore the town. As I was showering Gary managed to take some photos of the parakeets in the pear tree next to our tent, they’re amazing looking creatures but very noisy.

Bharti and Pete had told us about fairy penguins along the east and south coast and we were keen to spot one. We had enquired in the local tourist office about a tour but they wanted to charge us £15 each so instead we decided to chance our luck and walk along the coast to see what we could see. Our gamble paid off, we had been walking for about a mile along the rugged coast when Gary spotted what at first he thought was a rat but on closer inspection turned out to be a very wet and tired penguin. To come up on to the rocks the penguins were having to fight their way through the rough sea which was crashing against the rocks. It took a while for me to make out the little critter but what a sight, you really felt sorry for him. We waited and watched and was rewarded with the sighting of another penguin making the same journey, they’re so small and sweet but looks can be deceiving because they must be really strong and hardy to live in these conditions.

As it was late and we’d had a long day we made our way back to the tent for a glass of red wine and sprite (unusual combination but the wine was very dry and we were thirsty).

Day 300 Bicheno; weather hold due to flooding.
Friday 29th January

We had a very disturbed nights sleep as heaven was having one hell of a party, we presume it was heaven we are down under so it could be hell but they played loud drum music (thunder) and had amazing laser shows (lightening) all night right above our heads, instead of foam they used pure water to cool us down and lots of it. The tent was definitely put to the test but stood up to the challenge and we were pleased to wake up and find everything dry except of course the outside of the tent.

Although it was still very blustery and wet we had decided to move on to the next big town but we had to change our plans when we heard most of the roads in the area were closed because of flooding and there were 6 weather warnings in force for the area.

We had several conversations with locals during the course of the day and apparently it was the worse rain fall they’d seen in years according to some as much as 180mm and fallen in the last 24 hours with more forecast for the next couple of days. We had hoped this would be helping the people on the North West of the Island who have been fighting bush fires but unfortunately this was not the case. There wasn’t enough rain in their area and the lightening just struck up more fires. The fire crews couldn’t get to the fires because of the flooded roads so the situation had worsened over night and there were more warnings being posted about that area too. We hope to be cycling in the North West towards the end of next week so will keep our fingers crossed that there under control by the time we get there otherwise we will have to make alternative arrangements.

Instead of cycling we made use of our time charging devices and researching routes on the internet, we used the local library as it was free and warm, the laundry was charging £2 to charge devices! We also washed and dried our clothes and towels and went for walk up to a rock over looking the town and the sea, on our way up we spotted a kangaroo. We finished this walk with walk around the coast passing a blow hole, the sea was spectacular and wild, we walked to the end of a wharf and could hear a cacophony of noise from the Sea Crested Terns that were nesting on an island.opposite the wharf. It was a wet and windy day and the conditions were not ideal for cycling so I’m glad we spent the day catching up on chores but had the roads not been closed we could have cycled to the next town the weather wasn’t that bad. We finished the day off with a bag of chips from the local take away, we know how to live it up! We had hoped to have a beer with our chips but at £3 for a small bottle we decided against this we even considered buying a bottle of wine but as the cheapest on offer was £16 we decided instead for a cup of tea.

Gary; the local hardware store is one of those that stocks everything, so much so that it had spare cycle pedals, unfortunately when i tried to fit them the thread size was to small so i am hoping tomorrow morning that they will also have the size I need.
Day 301
30th January
Bicheno to
62 miles

Woke early too early to use the on site kitchen facilities but as the sun was shining and the tent was dry we agreed it made sense to pack up and take a walk on the coast before having breakfast.

It had rained lots during the night but the sea was much calmer and it looked like a promising day at the very least we hoped to set off when it was dry.

We had eggs and beans on toast yum yum it was very filling and lasted us until lunch. Before setting off on our journey Gary had to change his pedal as he’d bought the wrong size, he is now cycling with two different pedals which is a little odd but hey ho. The bikes have gained a lot of war wounds on route including a battered frame (Gary’s, this happened in transit on a plane), worn out saddles (the leather has gone on both saddles), worn handle bars (again on both bikes) well they have done almost 8,000 miles so they’re not doing too bad.

I found the first 10 miles hard going and then I remembered it was that time of the month again, boy doesn’t that come around quickly. Once I realised what was happening I settled down into a rhythm. We stopped several times on route and each time someone would tell us about their weather experience, it was amazing to see how much water had fallen and see the number of creeks and rivers that had flooded, what was even more interesting was the fact that the rivers had gone back down to their normal levels within a very short period of time.

We had lunch in Swansea by a park, we found a sheltered spot and took our time to enjoy our simple picnic of wraps, boiled eggs, crisps and jam crackers. We were tempted to buy a local paper as the front page sensationally had the headline Tasmania hit by floods and bush fires with some dramatic pictures but at £1.20 it was a little extravagant.

The afternoon was more picturesque although a little more hilly but after each climb we were rewarded with a view of the coast some views were breathtaking and the time went a lot quicker.

We arrived in Trianunna quite early and stopped at the supermarket for some supplies. We had been told on route about a trip to Marie Island that left from the harbour we were staying in so we were keen to check out prices and times so stopped at the information centre and was told we needed to call ‘Ann’ but we had no phone. We resolved this by using the pub phone later that evening but couldn’t get through. After some further research on the internet we decided we would take a risk and pitch up at the harbour and see if they could squeeze us on the ferry.

We had several camping options 2 of which were free but not brilliant and a paid site. We decided as we would have to pay £50 for the ferry we would stay in a free site behind a local pub. We were surprised to find that we had wifi access in the tent but it was pretty poor so decided to try it in the pub, this was no better but at least we could have a drink, charge our devices and use clean loos.

The site was OK but got very noisy later in the evening as some local lads were out on the lash, I didn’t hear them but they kept Gary awake.

Day 302
Triabunna to Marie Island

We were up bright and early and had breakfast and packed up the tent in time to get to the harbour (just across the road from the pub). We were really lucky several people had cancelled their trip due to the weather so we were able to book seats on arrival.

It was a choppy ride across and took about 1 hour, as we got off on Marie Island it was wet, dark and blustery. The island is car free and we were instructed to wash our bikes down to ensure we didn’t bring any bacteria onto the island before making our way up to the booking office. We were greeted at the booking office by a lovely welcoming park ranger who informed us we could stay in the Penitentiary for £22 or camp for £6.50 we did deliberate for a while but after doing one of the 2 hour walks we decided to camp. The weather had improved and the facilities for camping were great, we had access to the toilet block, an under cover kitchen and a mess hall with tables, power points and table tennis.

Whilst on the island we did a couple of nature walks and saw lots and lots of wombats, wallabies, Pademelons and Cape Barron Geese. Our favourite was the wombats most of them seem totally relaxed with tourists and they’re big and cuddly with cute faces, you almost want to give them a big cuddle but their claws would clearly give you a nasty scratch if you tried. The views were also amazing with several cliff edge walks with amazing drop offs, it was a great way to spend the day. The island is great for tourists in addition to the walks there are several buildings with lots of historical information, in a coffee house Gary and I both jumped when we entered a room and a voice suddenly started providing us with information, neither of us had expected this but it was a good way of introducing the history of the family who had lived on the island during the 19c. I think we were really lucky the park ranger had informed us that several people had cancelled their reservations because of the weather so the island was quite and we walked miles without seeing any other tourists it was lovely.

The island has been used for hosting convicts, making wine and beer, silk and cement but none of these activities seem to be taking place today the island seems to be purely for tourism and is a designated national park. We were informed we needed to pay £12 each to enter the national park, no-one asked for this so we didn’t volunteer it.

In the evening we went for another walk in the hope of seeing a bit more wildlife and we were not disappointed, as we returned to our tent we saw lots of Palemellons, wombats and we even saw a Tasmanian Devil, Marie Island was truly amazing we loved every minute of our time there.