Friday, 8 February 2013

Motorcycle Tasmania - North East

We are heading up there.
When we stepped out of our big tent, on our first morning in Launceston, Steve looked up at the clear sky and exclaimed “we’ve got to ride the mountain today.” As soon as the flasks were filled with hot water, and the esky was packed with cheese, biscuits, nuts and fresh fruit we were off on our first Tasmanian ride.

We rode on easy through the little village of Longford and then up we went past Poatina. The road was quiet and the views spectacular as we looked across at the Great Lake. We stopped for morning tea at Flintstone, to take in the wonderful views over Arthurs Lake, and then we lunched at Miena. I placed a chunk of cheese on a dozen crackers and then tried to protect our fair from the savage wind that was blowing across the lake. While we quizzed a local about the condition of the gravel road on the western side of the lake, he said, “We’re expecting a drop of rain this afternoon.” Any mention of rain when I’m at altitude with my motorcycle and I start hopping around all over the place and I said “gotta go, gotta go.” Five minutes later we were packed up and heading down the mountain as quickly as we could.

The Great Lakes - Western Tiers - 1300m, getting use to the gravel.
The gravel section was upon us in no time but the road was flat and the going was easy. Steve had done most of the map reading for the day and I was unaware that there was a second section of gravel. When we arrived at gravel road number two my heart sank, especially when the sign said 19km. Onwards and upwards we went. Dark clouds were gathering around the hills and a few spots of rain collected on my visor. I wanted to wave my fist at Steve but I needed both hands on the handle bars. With the weather closing in and some steep hair pin bends to negotiate, I wanted to turn back but we were past the point of no return. Luckily the 19km sign had been a joke all along and we were soon riding on bitumen again.
I can cope with a little light rain, but then the fog rolled in. I was in front and it was some comfort that I could see the dim glow of Steve’s headlight as we started the steep descent, with only the white lines on the edge of the road to guide us. Thankfully we were soon out of the fog but I was a little spooked by the gravel, and the rain, and I descended that mountain like a hairy dog; luckily only Steve was around as witness.

Cataract Gorge, Launceston.
We stopped to rest at the bakery in Deloraine. It was wonderful to watch our host make us an iced coffee with so much care and attention, even piping fresh cream on top. Riding in the mountains lived up to its expectations – four seasons in one day.
Be careful what you wish for. Our big tent was dusty and Steve was overheard to have said “a shower of rain will clean her up.” When we arrived back at camp, the rain arrived too and we settled in for a night and a day of continuous drizzle. The locals said it hadn’t rained for weeks. That’s what they always say and we didn’t believe them. The rain gave us the opportunity to enjoy the streets of Launceston which made a change from motorcycle riding.
Convict built bridge, Campbell Town.
When the sun decided to shine once more, we took the bikes on an easy run to the historic towns of Campbell Town and Ross. Of the 200,000 convicts sent to Australia, Tasmania received an incredible 70,000 prisoners. These guys were so resourceful that the bridge they built in Campbell Town is able to withstand modern heavy vehicles and is now part of the main highway connecting Launceston and Hobart.
I remembered enjoying the Ross Rodeo when I was a child. It seemed like poetry in motion that the day I rode into town on my motorcycle, the rodeo was actually taking place in the little village. While we ate our lunch I could hear the rodeo’s PA system in the distance and it took me back to a time long ago.
On Sunday 3rd February we moved our camp to St Helens. The road twists and turns all the way to Scottsdale and beyond. It’s easy to forget that although the distances are short, the ride time is long.
You learn something every day. Getting two motorcycles through a caravan park boom gate, with only one access key, used to seem like a circus trick. Steve would operate the key. As soon as the gate opened I would shoot through, leaving Steve to perform the hero’s part which was to try and sneak past the gate before the boom came down and knocked him of his bike. What we hadn’t realised is that as soon as I went through the gate, the gate sensors said “vehicle through, close gate.” All you have to do is line up and ride through together; it’s as easy as pie even though the warning sign on the gate says “No bicycles or motorcycles.”
Great fish and chips, afloat at St Helens.

If you stay at St Helens you’ve got to have fish and chips. Our host talked us into trying travella, claimed to be one of the best table fish on the planet. The travella was soft eating and very good but these days we have developed a taste for flake which is our favourite.

Elephant Pass.

From St Helens we took the bikes on a run to Bicheno. We timed our ride perfectly so we could enjoy the famous Elephant Pass and then have lunch at the Elephant Pancake Kitchen. While I was waiting for my all berry pancake to be served, I decided to inspect the contents of the sugar bowl. Now I should tell you that the dudes that run this establishment have a sense of humour and there are signs around that say things like “don’t even think about blocking this gate…” and “uncontrolled children will be taken care of.” So when I lifted the lid on the sugar bowl and saw a lizard sitting inside I thought it was a joke – until his eyes moved and he slithered onto the table. I gave a controlled yelp, which I felt I was entitled to. All the other patrons laughed and the waitress said, “That’s what you get when you live in the bush.” Then she continued to serve tea and coffee and didn’t even pretend that the sugar bowl would be cleaned out. I can report that the pancakes were excellent but be warned – this restaurant only accepts cash and the pancakes are quite expensive.
By the time we made it back to camp it was time to replace the ice in our esky. We freeze two litre orange juice containers, the square ones are the best as they fit neatly inside the esky. Steve went to the camp kitchen but our container was gone. The manager just happened to wander past our campsite and I mentioned it to him. He said that “the girls" had probably cleaned out the freezer and thrown our bottle away as the park does not tolerate the freezing of plastic bottles; it doesn’t leave any room in the freezer for food. On this occasion the freezer was like the park – empty. I thought about this for a moment and then asked to be shown the sign which indicates that you cannot place bottles of water in the freezer. There was no sign. I told the manager that “the freezer needs a sign” because everyone freezers bottles and how were we to know. I said to Steve “if there isn’t a sign on the freezer by the time we leave the park I’m going to write to the management.” The following day the manager wandered over with the news that our bottle had been found and it was back in the freezer! All was forgiven and no letter was written.
On Thursday 7th February, it was time for a ride to Hobart. There is something magical and exciting about moving our camp from one destination to another. When I look back on our days on the road, one of my favourite moments will be when we ride out of town, both bikes loaded up and the trailer in tow. At that moment we are carrying everything we need and it feels good.

Bikes all packed and on the road, Triabunna.
We picked a warm day for our ride to Hobart and finding a shady picnic spot can seem like an impossible task. The roads are in exceptional condition here in Tasmania and they are a pleasure and a privilege to ride on. We stopped for a break at Bicheno, Swansea and Triabunna. At Triabunna the ferry captain approached us and said he was trying to encourage biker dudes to enjoy a trip to Maria Island by offering secure parking near the ferry terminal. We suggested he should advertise in the Ulysses Club “Riding On” magazine.
The temperature was a humid 30 degrees which made riding a little uncomfortable. As we approached Orford I noticed it felt a little cooler. I looked down at Devil’s LCD and it said 27 degrees. The temperature kept falling, half a degree at a time, until it felt cold at 22 degrees. Then I noticed the wind had picked up and bark was being blown off the trees. As we rode past Prosser Bay I saw a cloud of sand approaching the road. I called out “steady up” and me and Red Devil just managed to pull up in time to watch a willy willy cross the road. Five minutes later it was 30 degrees again!
We were hot and hungry by the time we arrived at Richmond. A scallop pie and a Tasmanian made ice cream calmed us down and made the crew smile again. By 4pm our canvas cabin was up once more and we were on the net, checking out the program for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Boat show here we come.

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