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David   Linda   Bike Odyssey Pty Ltd
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Tasmania 1996
Linda & David’s


Total Distance: 2,200 km
Total Time: 37 days
Total Riding Time: 27 days
Total Cost: $3,800
Maximum Speed: about 68 km/hr
Minimum Speed: about 4 km/hr (3/4 hr to ride 3km uphill)
Maximum Altitude: Bike - 1350m (Thredbo), Foot - 1450m (Mt Rufus, Lake St Clair), Chairlift - ~2000m (Thredbo)
Steepest Hills (up): Tunnack, Cradle Mt road, Stanwell Park, McKell Ave (Waterfall)
Steepest Hills (down): Jamboroo pass
Longest Day (riding time): about 8.5 hrs
Longest Day (distance): 120 km
Dog Attacks: NONE !!
Punctures: 3 (Linda - 1, David - 2)
Broken Racks: 1 (Linda)
Lost Pannier Rack Screws: 1 (David)
Broken Spokes: 1 (David)
Best Weather: too many to mention
Worst Weather: Strahan to Tullah (95 km up the Tassie west coast - very wet with strong & cold tail wind), Jindabyne (rest day - very wet with gale force NW wind)
Wet Riding Days: 3 (Richmond to Eaglehawk Neck, Strahan to Tullah, Bundanoon to Wollongong)
Most Mispronounced Places: Interlaken, Strahan, Buchan, Suggan Buggan
Best Meal: Mexican (Sale)
Accommodation: Motel - 15 nights; Camping - 9 nights; B&B - 4 nights; Hotel - 3 nights; Other - 3 nights (Tullah, Boat & Gelantipy)
Best Value Accommodation: "The Wattles" - Bed & breakfast in Forth, Tassie
Best Camping: Port Arthur Caravan Park; Snowy River campsite
Most Lights in a Motel Room: 10 (Bairnsdale)
Election Zones: Tassie (state election, federal election), Victoria (state election campain), Southern Highlands (state by-election campain)
Other Cycle Tourists: Tassie - 18 (all over); Victoria - 8 (7 in one day near Wilson’s Promontory); NSW - 1 (Jindabyne)


I usually get a perverse sense of pleasure telling my colleges what my partner (Linda) and I are doing with our annual holidays. The look of shock and amazement on the usually stony faces of my fellow bored office workers gives me quite a kick. One young woman who seems quite unimpressed when I told her we were spending 5 weeks riding from Sydney to Brisbane and back. A bit later in the day she came up to me and asked, "your are riding motor bikes aren’t you?". I’ll never forget seeing her jaw drop to the floor when I told her about our bicycles.

This time was different. My cycling eccentricities had become more well know, and almost everyone I told about our trip from Hobart to Sydney responded with a joke like "well you’ll have to swim part of the way, Ha Ha Ha!". The first five times I heard this I managed a polite smile, which became steadily less convincing. After that my responses were short sharp, and generally terminated any further chitchat.

It was late February 1996 as Linda and I reassembled our bikes in the car park of a Hobart Motel beneath the vistas of Mt Wellington. We started our trip spending three days heading down the Tasman Peninsula getting our touring legs. One of the great pleasures of cycle touring is the pace of travel. You get to sense and experience things most people miss as it flies by their car windows, especially on the back roads away from the usual tourist beats. The peninsula is dotted with postcard views of picturesque little farms and quaint cottages. However, the largest industry around was water haulage, no one drove a car less than fifteen years old, and most of the small business seemed to be struggling. It seemed there was a price to pay for living in paradise.

The Port Arthur historic site was billed as Tasmania’s biggest tourist attraction, and boasts beautiful sandstone structures that are the remains of a penal colony. I initially thought the concept of building a theme park out of a brutal correctional institution a bit sick. I had expected the mood of the place to a bit more sombre, but sitting in the sun watching English tourists play cricket on the manicured lawns amidst the oak and maple trees proved very relaxing. After all, this was a holiday destination, and the atrocities committed at the place occurred a very long time ago. Less than two months after our visit, a rampaging lone gunman shot and killed 35 innocent people in and around the Port Arthur historic site, giving its reputation as a brutal macabre place a more contemporary relevance.

We cycled across the Midlands, the first rural regions of Tasmania settled for agriculture. The whole region is dotted with very little closely settled towns. One such town is Parattah (pronounced Prat-Are) where we ate lunch on the verandah of the boarded up general store. At least half of the towns’ hundred or so houses were for sale. What little traffic passed down the main street was invariably enormous old cars driven by equally enormous obese women. We did see a group on foot; a couple in their early thirties walking with a girl in her mid teens pushing a stroller. As I pondered how they may have been related I came to one inescapable conclusion; there’s not much to do in Parattah.

From the midlands we cycled across the virtually deserted central Tasmanian high country. On the road ahead appeared what we initially thought was an injured black cat. This sleek and graceful animal seemed to trot along with a limp, and had a dash of red strewn down it’s front neck. I’d always though of Tasmanian Devils as tubby little scavengers that waddled around at night growling at each other and feeding off road kills. As a marsupial, the "limp" is the Devil’s natural stride, running on its for legs while hopping roo like on it’s hind. Watching this graceful creature scurry off into the bushes made the warnings "watch those devils, they’ll chase your bikes and bite your tyres!" almost believable. Almost.

Lake St Clair is situated in the Northern end of Tasmania’s south west wilderness area, one of the World’s last remaining tracts of wilderness. It’s crystal clear waters surrounded by King Billy pines and protruding jagged mountains were recognised as a natural wonder worthy of protection long before it became fashionable to do so. Its pristine beauty remains, because the thousands of tourists traversing this wonderful part of the world have been properly managed from the outset. We consider ourselves very privileged to enjoy two cloudless days here, especially as it usually rains 300 days a year.

We carefully guided our bikes around the winding highway that hugs the precipice moonscape approaching Queenstown in light misty slippery rain. Very little grows within five miles of Queenstown, a result of copper smelting and mining pollution from an era when the environment was more conquered than admired. Queenstown has a reputation of being the centre of Tasmania’s wild west. The wild mostly refers to the weather ("you can tell it’s winter - the rain is colder"), but also relates to the colourful history of mining magnates, corruption from the various mineral booms and busts over the years. Recently, when Queenstown’s last mine closed and all residents prepared to leave the place a ghost town, some smart arse real estate agent bought up the local houses for sale as scrap for $4000. These were sold on to mainland city dwelling "investors" for the bargain price of $20,000 a pop. With the mines reopened this would be ghost town is thriving, the down town streets literally bustling with young optimistic faces. A complete contrast to the lingering death of those trapped souls in the midlands.

The west coast fishing port of Strahan is now primarily a tourist town, shops with brightly painted facades selling the usual bazaar of souvenirs and knick knacks to the hordes in buses. The main attractions are cruises up the Gordon River, made famous by a controversial dam project eventually abandoned after much vigorous protesting. A fleet of huge high speed wave piercing boats take hundreds of tourists at a time to this Mecca of wilderness preservation twice a day, seven days a week three sixty five days a year. They come to see the magnificent forests, and the legendary Huon pine which lives for thousands of years along the banks of this mythical river. The truth be known, the National Parks people stopped the cruises going beyond the high tide mark when they realised how quickly they were eroding the river’s banks. The only Huon pine left near the river are the ones so scrawny and straggly the loggers of yesteryear couldn’t be bothered with. We still enjoyed our cruise. The history of the ill fated penal colony at Sarah Island; which has no lawns, "restored" artefacts or souvenir shops; was refreshingly authentic.

In Tasmania almost everywhere you look there is a stunning vista of some sort. In a rare and brief moment of sunshine I looked out from the old electricity workman’s demountable shack in Tullah we were staying in, and a huge craggy mist covered monolith appeared. If it’s not spectacular mountains or pristine wilderness streams, it beautiful water views. Even after two weeks of this, Cradle Mountain was still magnificently impressive.

The roll-on roll-off ferry to Melbourne departs from the Tasmania’s third largest "city", Devonport. When the boat’s in town it’s the tallest building by four stories. For long distance cyclists, whose calorie intake requirements are double that of couch potato, the all you can eat buffets are terrific. A friend of mine at work didn’t think too much it though. "There aren’t enough poker machines and bar is only open till 1 am."

We cycled for a week through the rolling farms across the eastern Victorian flatlands. Most of the towns we passed though seemed more like cities, with an impersonal feel and heavy aggressive traffic. When we finally left the main highway route and headed up the seldom used Barry Way for the Snowy mountains the culture seemed to change as quickly as the scenery. Everyone one we met in the tiny town of Buchan displayed the genuine friendliness, which is all so rare in our modern cities. On the way out of town a local farmer pulled up beside and took the time to chat with us for nearly half an hour. In Sydney we are more likely to get a bottle chucked at us.

The further into the hills we rode the traffic became thinner and road rougher. Eventually there were no more farms, and largest "towns" were no more than a pit toilet or a derelict building. We camped alone by the Snowy river at dusk after a day of struggling over several impeding mountain ranges. The once mighty Snowy river is barely a trickle now. Irrigation and electricity needs in the west have left this national icon a green swampy pond, all but biologically dead. This section of the track snakes along next to the snowy, giving magnificent views of the river and surrounding mountains. Up close low growth vegetation is a variety of local and introduced weeds, and there are more signs of introduced feral than native animals. This region is now protected by National Parks legislation and is a designated "wilderness" area, but it’s no longer like the pristine wilds of Tasmania.

Climbing out of the Snowy River’s valley was a slow, painfully arduous task, not helped by our delayed start. Hour after hour, kilometre after kilometre we inched our machines and our carcases up to the high country. It was late afternoon by the times the first farms appeared, early evening before the tar purred under our wheels and just on dusk as our exhausted and somewhat relieved bodies propelled us into Jindabyne.

Jindabyne was originally a small rural town, that was redeveloped and relocated as part of the Snowy Mountain’s hydro electricity scheme. Now its a major service centre for the nearby ski fields. We spent most of our stay here slouched in front of the TV in our Chalet room (off season rates), waiting out a rather fortuitously timed gale. After our struggles the previous days getting from the bed to TV felt quite an effort.

The final week of our trip was spent racing for home down the now familiar roads of the Southern Highlands. Revelling in our newly acquired fitness and speed, the kilometres flew by. Of course there are always some disappointments cycling in our home state. The number of McGoo’s who don’t, or choose not to, see and respect a cyclist’s place on the roads is distinctly higher than in other parts of Australia. We also had a few encounters with "conscientious" motorists who literally scrape past us within an inch of our lives, then look back in their rear vision mirrors to check we’re OK. There were also some unexpected highlights. Riding through the Royal National Park on a Sunday morning is one of our regular training rides. After a week of boring dry wheat and cow country the coastal cliffs and tall forests were a timely reminder how fortunate we are to have them so close to home.

Back at work Linda gets some rather envious comments from her female co-workers about how much weight she’s lost. I get the usual array of bad jokes about holidaying in a concentration camp. As always, the queries quickly become repetitive. Linda got so sick of them from the previous trips that this time she prepared an FAQ sheet. In any event the main problem I have with returning to work was how little things changed in my absence. Apart from a few missing pens, my desk was still the same. My employers’ business had not come crashing around it ears without me. Worst of all, I still would rather be cycle touring.