Sunday, 17 February 2013

Motorcycle Tasmania – South and West

We left the caravan park in Cambridge, Hobart, just in time to join the rush of cars trying to get their drivers to work on time. We detoured to the shopping centre, to restock the esky and the food box, while the traffic on the Tasman Bridge had time to clear.

Soon we were on our way, Dover bound. I wondered many times, while we walked the jetties at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, “why are there so many boats in Hobart?” Then I laid eyes on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the reason became clear. This wonderful waterway, flanked by Bruny Island on the east, and the mainland on the west, is full of bays and beaches. The scenery was spectacular and as we rode south along the Channel Highway we had to remind ourselves about the importance of keeping our eyes on the road. Salmon farms do exist but not enough to spoil the view.

Mouth of the Huon River with
D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island in the background.
We stopped for a cup-a-soup and a homemade ham sandwich at a lookout near Garden Island Creek. A shower of rain around the hills to the south kept us looking over our left shoulder. Steve picked blackberries and willingly shared them with me. At the visitor information centre in Hobart we asked, “Where should we stay Cygnet or Dover?” Without hesitation the guy said “Dover, there isn’t much going on in Cygnet.” Unfortunately we believed him and we rode on through the sophisticated little town, with its boutique wares and interesting port, before we realised we had missed something.

Although there wasn’t much happening in Dover, it was a true sanctuary away from the madding crowd and we took the opportunity to cook all our own meals and relax for a while.

This Houn Pine is 450 years old,
they live for up to 3,000 years.
We hopped on the tourist band wagon and paid $25 each to enjoy the Tahune Forest Airwalk. We learned a little more about the famous Huon Pine. On the huon trail we were introduced to a 450 year old tree. They call these trees the “old folk” of the forest. Apparently they only grow in the wettest areas of the state so I have stopped looking out for them on the hills and in the valleys as we ride along the many scenic roads.

A good day on the road is worth more than a good day at camp so when we saw that the weather looked clear we decided to ride for two days all the way from Dover to Ulverstone. The big tent was packed up and we were back on the road by 8am. We shopped at Huonville and then settled in for the ride through the city. Steve likes to take all the back roads and we had soon turned left and were winding our way along the lower slopes of Mt Wellington. This is one of those roads that probably should say “local traffic only,” but Tasmanians are kind to motorcycle riders and they allow you to ride everywhere. You have to settle in and ride at your own pace along these lanes because the consequence of trying to keep up with someone else doesn’t bare thinking about.

We have fallen in love with Tasmania’s Valhalla ice cream and it was no surprise that after lunch we were devouring a two scooper on the pavement in New Norfolk. Then we were back on the road again, trundling long the Lyell Highway. I don’t think there is a single straight road in Tasmania. Sometimes the corner speeds are indicated as a warning shot, but mostly you are left to your own devices regarding entry speeds. As I was riding along towards Tarraleah, it occurred to me that if you could get a giant rolling pin and iron out all of Tasmania’s hills and mountains, so that the apple isle was flat like Western Australia, I think the footprint would be quite large.

We pulled into Tarraleah late in the afternoon. There were two types of powered camp sites available. The grassy sites were covered in possum poop. I picked the poopless site, and Steve picked the grassy site, so we drew straws and Steve won. Next thing I know I’m down on my hands and knees picking up possum turds! Timing is everything and Steve happened to open the tent just as I swept up one of the drier pieces of poop. Unfortunately a gust of wind caught the dustpan and blew at least half a turd inside the tent. I’m still laughing about it now.

The ride from Tarraleah to Queenstown is simply stunning. The Red Devil and I looked after each other and the purr of her engine, as we wound our way along some of the steep mountain passes, was music to my ears. I only heard the word “crikey” once inside my helmet, now and again I heard myself cackling away; it’s just so much fun. On these roads you have to participate in the ride – constantly making decisions and changing up and down through the gears tires you out. I think four hours on the road here in Tasmania is more like riding for six hours on a conventional pavement.

The road into Queenstown (which you can see at the bottom of the valley).
Yes, the Red Devil and I are in the picture.

Except for the locals and the super talented bikers, I don’t think the steep descent into Queenstown could really be described as a great motorcycle road. It’s just about survival as you negotiate the change in elevation from high to low. Queenstown is a wonderful historic town and if you stop for a moment you can almost hear the clatter and chatter from the time when the town was living its heyday. I just hope the West Coast Wilderness Railway train to Strahan keeps running so the tourists keep turning up.

If you have the opportunity to ride Tasmania, include Anthony Road (B28) which runs from Henty Glacial Moraine in the south to Tullah in the north. On the day, as we rode on easy, admiring the breathtaking scenery that is part of the world heritage Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, it occurred to me that this was probably the most beautiful road I had ever cruised along.

Steve wasn’t finished with the back roads yet and although we were enjoying a good lick of speed along the Murchison Highway, Steve soon found the B18 and then a couple of “C” roads. These roads slowed us down as we navigated our way through the farming communities of Upper Natone and South Riana.

We ended our “Ride Tasmania” in Ulverstone. While we were resting in our big camp chairs and musing over three weeks of wonderful riding, a bird flew past and pooped right on my foot. “That’s supposed to be lucky” said Steve, “perhaps we should buy a lottery ticket?” to which I replied “perhaps we have been lucky enough!”

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