1 February – 7 March 2015
This section covers Devenport to Hobart via the Tasmanian east coast as well as a loop to Bruny Island and Longley south of Hobart. I had an open schedule and no return ferry ticket to Melbourne so I took my time - 12 days to do the 800k to Hobart and 5 days to do the additional 450k Bruny Island loop plus week long stays in Hobart and Longley. The timing was great – it often rains on the east coast of Tasmania but I had great weather all the way to Hobart; no rain and only a few days with overcast weather. The Bruny Island loop was more diverse with an equal amount of sun and overcast but still limited rain compared to the norm.
Instead of commenting everything in timely order I have written some relevant topics however the pictures shown are mostly in line with the trip timeline.
Description of itinerary
After arriving with the ferry in Devenport in northern Tasmania I headed 300k east through hilly farmland and forests until I reached for east coast at St Helens and the stunning Bay of Fires. From there I followed the beautiful coast south passing countless gorgeous beaches with turquoise water and making detours to Freycinet National Park and the Tasman Peninsula before riding into Hobart. In Hobart I stayed with Fiona and Shane (friends of David and Anne’s that I helped built a house in Moruya) who took me to a couple beaches and up to Mt Wellington with its gorgeous views – other days I biked to Mona (the museum of modern art) and into Hobart to do a bit of sightseeing. After a great week I looped south to beautiful Bruny Island before staying a week in Duncan’s house in Longley 25k southwest of Hobart – he was busy and staying at his girlfriend Cathy’s place in nearby Kettering so I had the house to myself and did little but relax, read and fix my bike. On my way back north I made a short stop in Hobart to see the Salamanca market, do laundry and a few other practicalities. This part of Tasmania is one of Australia’s breadbaskets – besides the scattered towns/villages and wilderness it’s all countryside/farmland (animals, crops, fruit, vine, etc.).
Road quality and drivers
My previous reflections have changed slightly for the better here in Tasmania. The roads are still of ever changing quality sometimes with a shoulder and sometimes not. However, the driver mentality seems a bit different – most people are more cautious when they go around me and many times cars and even big trucks have braked and waited when there was little room to squeeze by me. The many narrow and winding roads still created dangerous situations because the speed limit is 100 k/h – the driver sees me late, has no time to break and squeezes by despite oncoming traffic. There are signs to be cautions and look out for bicyclists but reducing the speed limit to e.g. 60 k/h would be a better solution. Riding the 2*30k gravel roads on Bruny Island entailed the worst experience – neither because of the washing board road with countless potholes and steep hills; nor the lack of views, but because 75% of the drivers raced by at 80 k/h leaving me in clouds of dust and flying stones.
As mentioned the weather was great – around 20-30C (68-86F) during the day but often with a cooling wind. At night it has been around 5-10C (42-50F) which was very pleasant for sleeping – I’ve used my sleeping bag as a duvet but still hasn’t been in it. On the east coast only a few overcast days and limited rain – one time was when I had taken a day off to hike in Freycinet National Park. No views but fortunately I didn’t lose out much as the hike wasn’t that interesting. There were some overcast days during my stay in Hobart but it was only nice since I had lots of (indoor) practicalities to do. The Bruny Island loop including my Longley stay was more diverse with an equal amount of sun and overcast; some even with rain and thunder/lightening. Tasmania is a fairly windy island but the wind direction changes all the time so I reckon I’ve had equally many days with headwind and tailwind.
There is a lot of road kill in Tasmania – on average around one per kilometer but sometimes every 100 meters - mostly kangaroos/wallabies (much smaller here than on the mainland) or their local look-alikes pademelon (few seem to know the difference). I’ve experienced very little live wildlife - some kangaroos and wallabies, echidnas (the Tasmanian porcupine look-alike) and some tiger snakes. Surprisingly few birds besides seagulls but fortunately also very few mosquitoes and flies except for Bruny Island where I had the worst experience in Australia yet. Still no sight of the Tasmanian devil.
One reason for seeing little wildlife is that most is nocturnal and when camping I go to bed when it’s dark. I‘ve heard a lot of sounds around the tent but even when out peeing at night I haven’t seen anything.
Camping and people
As mentioned in previous sections the Aussie hospitality is limited, however I was optimistic as I’d been told it would be better in Tasmania. Unfortunately I haven’t experienced a lot of that – when asking for camping advice I was never invited to stay and often also without suggestions for where to camp. The visitor information was neither very helpful always emphasising the “no wild-camping” rule and trying to send me to pay campgrounds instead of helping me find a free spot where nobody would be offended – I think they must be on commission from their bookings. So most nights I’ve camped in a forest but a few times I’ve stayed in free campgrounds which has been a mixed experience. Foreign tourists are often friendly and talkative while most Aussies have enough in themselves and have looked at me as I was mad for approaching them. However, one good experience was Lynda and John that I “shared” campgrounds with several nights. Very friendly, accommodating and helpful e.g. sharing their drinking water, inviting me for dinner and storing my stuff in their trailer when I went hiking in Freycinet National Park. As mentioned before Aussies are very friendly and accommodating once you’re “inside” either getting to know people myself or having a reference from somebody else so it came as no surprise both Fiona/Shane and Duncan/Cathy treated me like family – still I can’t stop being really happy and grateful when it happens.
Water is a scarce resource since everybody but the bigger towns are on tank water - and many times people have declined me water despite it being only 4-6 liters, which is half of what their toilet flushes. In that sense Australia is a so-called third world country or maybe even worse – in most of these countries I have always found – at a minimum - a central faucet with clean water. How that’s not possible here is beyond my understanding especially in the lush and hilly areas. It must be a question of money, as everything here in Australia being more capitalistic than USA.
I met several long-distance bicyclists (“only” biking Tasmania) but almost everybody settled for a wave while passing by – very different from North America where most people stopped to talk. The exceptions were a father/daughter from Sydney that I met a couple of times coming down the coast and Jas(mine) from Sydney whom I met in Sorell so we only rode together the 25k to Hobart – lovely girl and nice to have a companion even though it was a very short stretch. It made me think it would be nice to bike with somebody for a while especially since it’s so difficult to stay with the locals.
Food, health and equipment
Food has been the same as usual. However, worth mentioning is the blackberry season. Almost every day I’ve had blackberries from bushes along the road and sometimes even where I camped. Before arriving in Hobart I picked 3 kilos for Fiona and Shane – so many that we couldn’t eat them all before they went bad.
The chairs on the ferry had no head support so I got a sore neck that soon started moving down to my shoulder/back. Though taking it easy the first days I managed to prevent it from becoming worse. Otherwise no serious issues; just a bit of bleeding – one day I cut my big toe on a stone and in the evening when I pulled hard on the bungie stuck in a tree it smashed into my face entailing lots of blood from nose and gums (luckily it didn’t hit my eye).
I have more and more problems with my tent zippers so now it’s just a question if it “survives” until I can get my new tent in Adelaide.
Riding towards the east coast my 1. gear began skidding and it was tough riding the steep hills in 2. gear. I assumed it was because of my over-worn chain and rear cassette in need to be changed but instead I broke my rear gear cable when I the next day rode along the Bay of Fires. No problem as I had the parts and tools but as it turned out not the skills so after an hour I had to give up. I quickly got a ride back to small town St Helens but there was no bike shop. Fortunately, Colin did a bit of bike repair on the side and he managed to fix it and tune the gears to about 85%. I had to wait until after hours for the repair so it was more or less a day “wasted” but on the positive side people helped out and I was lucky it happened in civilisation instead of down the coast or worse in the desert/mountains. On the steep hills in Bruny Island (several over 15%) and back on the mainland my 1. gear again skidded like crazy so I decided to fix it. I had hoped it could wait until Adelaide where I already had the spare parts at my friend Allan’s place. However, I was not going to chance navigating 7-800k over the secluded mountains in central Tasmania. While staying at Duncan’s place I had Allan ship me a new chain and gears, and fixing the bike was easy.
I had a flat tire because the rim got hot from constantly breaking down the hilly gravel road on Bruny Island. It has happened many times before but always when making a stop and never when actually riding downhill – fortunately I was going slowly enough to stop before things got out of control. On the positive side it only took 5 minutes to pump up the tire to the right tire pressure, unlike my old small pump that took 45 minutes and couldn’t reach the necessary tire pressure.