Australia Prt 4, Tasmania: Hobart to Llandaf

Route: Hobart – Bellerive – Sorell – Nugent – Maria Island – Buckland – Stonehenge – Honey Suckle Road – Llandaff

Day 28: 7 March 2019
From Kettering to Hobart
45,19 km (Total so far: 1034,22 km) – Altitude climbed: 782 m
Weather: Sunny, medium head wind

Today was mainly riding back to Hobart the same way as I rode towards Bruny Island a week ago. To avoid a bit more busy roads, I made the detour over the hill towards mConingham. Beautiful and on a good gravel road. Excellent views towards Bruny Island a few times.
I stopped at the Bunnings store in Kingston to buy a new bottle of Shellite (white gas) for my stove.

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In Hobart I visited the well stocked and friendly map shop on Elizabeth Street and went to have a look in a few of the outdoor stores. In the evening I was hosted by Nico And Mykal who live on the edge of Hobart, already on the slopes towards Mount Wellington with excellent views towards that mountain.

Continue reading “Australia Prt 4, Tasmania: Hobart to Llandaf”

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Australia Prt 3, Tasmania: Cycling Bruny Island

Route: Hobart – Taroona – Kingston – Kettering – Bruny Island

Day 21: 28 Feb. 2019
From Hobart to Bruny Island, Simmonds Bay
61,19 km (Total so far: 792,00 km) – Altitude climbed: 826 m
Weather: Sunny

A busy day.
The camping kitchen closed at 8 pm yesterday, before all my devices were fully charged, so I sat there again this morning for 1,5 hour to finish that.

Via the bike path I rode into town. Part of the way I cycled with some other cyclists who were also hikers and went out every morning on their bike to drink a coffee in town near the marina.
In the town center, I first went to the ‘Find Your Feet’ shop to collect the Garmin inReach Mini I ordered with them. We arranged the subscription with Garmin as well.
From now on, when something serious happens, I just have to push a button and the Flying Doctors, helicopters, ambulances, rescue teams, …. everybody will come to me as quick as they can.
So they say.

Treated myself to a lunch in an Asian restaurant as well.
Hobart, and I think the whole of Australia, has a lot of Asian immigrants.
East- and Southeast Asians.
Good !
I like to be among these friendly, hard working people and they are a guarantee you can have some very good food, whether it is Thai, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, … always delicious.

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The ride from Hobart to Bruny Island along the coast is just something you have to go through.
Riding out of town towards Sandy Bay is pleasant.
Towards Taroona and Kingston, there are a few hills and most of the road has some form of shoulder. It is not good, but you will survive (although I noticed the other side of the road, on the way back, will be worse).

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Sandy Bay, just outside Hobart

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Kingston is a big place, with a big Coles supermarket, so provisions could still be bought here.
From here the roads gets busier.
Again, often this ‘shoulder’ which we call at home a ‘suicide lane’ for cyclists, but it’s ok. Better then the way into Hobart via the A10.
Between Margate and Snug there’s a new good bike path.
Then one more hill towards Kettering and the ferry to Bruny Island.

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I was warned water is not easy to find on Bruny, so I took a lot at the sanitary building in Kettering.
It was the 18:30 hrs ferry I got. The passage takes just 30 minutes. This means I had another hour to find a place for the night before sunset.
Everything along the main road is fenced off (a lot of sheep farming, I saw), so I descended via Missionary Road towards Simmonds Bay where I found a beautiful spot for the night.

Day 22: 1 March 2019
From Bruny Island, Simmonds Bay to Adventure Bay
40,86 km (Total so far: 832,86 km) – Altitude climbed: 368 m
Weather: Sunny, light tail wind

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Morning dew on the tent

From Simmonds Bay I rode back to the main road and on to Great Bay.
There, I found a really fantastic spot where I hope to camp in a few days, on the way back.
North and south Bruny are separated by an isthmus called ‘The Neck’. There’s a good view point from the top of a dune. Kilometers and kilometers of beach.
Fantastic view.

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Great Bay
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The long beach along ‘The Neck’ and Fluted Cape in the background
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The Neck

Further on, already on the southern part of the island, don’t forget to stop at ‘Coal Point’ if you are here.
More views, beautiful rocks, sea weed, ..

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Fascinating under water life.

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The water at Adventure Bay was colored red on the western side. Maybe due to algae ?
There is a general store here which a good selection of products, but at steep prices.
Near the end of the bay are several monuments referring to the history of the place where famous European Explores landed.
The first was Abel Tasman in 1642, Then James Cook in 1773, Tobias Furneaux a couple of times, and Bruni D’Entrecasteaux (1792) (after whom the island, and the channel between Bruny and Tasmania) is named.
D’Entrecasteaux is a name that will show up more later in the naming of Australian national parks,..
Also William Bligh and Jacques De Labillardiere visited this place.

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Adventure Bay Church

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Me, lacking the funds to have a boat, I arrived on the pushbike and I took a swim in these waters of the Southern Ocean.
And life was good. Very, very good.

Day 23: 2 March 2019
From Adventure Bay to Mable Bay
43,48 km (Total so far: 876,34 lm) – Altitude climbed: 1210 m
Weather: Sunny, hot !

First thing today, I rode back to the far corner of Adventure Bay to hike the Fluted Cape Walk.

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Severe Hazards !   Ridiculous, over the top warnings.

Starting off by hiking to the far corner of the beach, then an easy hike along the rocky coast to Grass Point. The water between Bruny Island and Penguin Island is so shallow you could walk to the other island.
From Grass Point at sea level, the trail starts climbing to the top of the cliffs, almost 300 meter higher.
Fan-tas-tic views of these cliffs.
It’s a sometimes steep climb, but totally worth it.
2,5 hours later, I was back at the starting point and went to eat lunch on the bench near the Captain Cook Statue.

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Impressive 300 meter high cliffs along the Fluted Cape Walk

The walk was already a bit demanding, but I knew the hardest part still had to come; cycling over the hills towards the other side of the island via the rough Lockleys Road.
It starts oh so gentle but then, after the junction with Resolution Road…. 11%, 12% climb on a stony track.
I have pushed most of the way to the top.
It was burning hot and the sun was in such an angle that most of the time there was no shade to be found on the road.

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The downhill is just as demanding and I had to stop each time after about 80 meters descending to cool down the rims. So steep !
There are some good views of Cloudy Bay Lagoon and the hills around on the descent.

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View towards Cloudy Bay and Cape Bruny

In Lunawanna I took some extra water from the toilet building.
If you think like me you’re quickly gonna cycle this 19 km to the lighthouse and come back most of the route,… think again.
Again, it starts gentle but the road becomes hillier as you’re nearing the lighouse.

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I arrive at Cape Bruny and the lighouse two hours before sunset. The gates were closed at 5 pm, but you are still allowed to walk in. I pushed the bike through the gate and parked it a bit further beyond the house of the lighthouse keeper;
Immediately a park ranger came up to me and I thought “o-oh, the bike shouldn’t be here”…
But she came out especially to check whether I was fine and if I didn’t need any water.
Now, isn’t that super-friendly !
I gladly took the offer. They were a couple of volunteers to look after the place for a week.
The man told me they also manage the weather station.
Today, when entering the data at 9 am and 3 pm, ‘the system’ asked whether the data was correct, as they were figures never recorded before.
I forgot to ask whether it were records for this day, a 2nd March, or all time records, but I suppose it’s a 2 March record.

26°C at 9 am and 38°C at 3 pm.
That’s in the shade.
The man who does the tours of the lighthouse told them he reckoned it was over 50 degrees in the sun this afternoon.
I told them I had 46,4 degrees on my cyclometer, and I was in the sun all day, so that could be.

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Cape Bruny  Lighthouse

From the lighthouse, one can see two little white islands in clear wheather. White because of all the bird droppings. But this late in the day, and with these temperatures, it wasn’t clear enough. These two islands are the southern most point of the Australian continent.

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View from the lighthouse towards Lighthouse Bay.

I saw a Swift Parrot near the lighthouse.  These endangered species can fly 100 km/hr and are the fastest parrots on the planet.

As the camping at Jetty Beach was crowded, and loud last night till after 2 am, I headed back towards the national park entrance and found myself a quite spot.

Before pitching the tent, I hiked down to the beach at Mabel Bay. Fantastic wild waters, high rocks on both side of the beach and one old schooner on anchor.

The tent was erected just before sunset and a all that’s left to do is prepare a big pot of pasta with a lot of vegetables.

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Nature making it’s own art

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Day 24: 3 March 2019
From Mable Bay to Little Lagoon
41,58 km (Total so far: 917,92 km) – Altitude climbed: 495 m
Weather: Cloudy, sun in the evening

The day started cloudy, but the predicted rain never came.
After yesterday’s hard day, I slept in a bit. I am glad I pushed this few kilometer yesterday evening and have this quite spot for the night instead of the listening to the drinkers and shouters at Jetty Bay.
I heard the crashing of the waves sixty meter below me.

After breakfast, I changed the front break pads and tightened the chain.
The first 14 kilometer of the day were the same as yesterday afternoon, back along Great Taylors Bay, over the hills to Little Taylors Bay and Lunawanna where I washed my clothes and my hair.
To my surprise, the road between Lunawanna and Alonnah is still unpaved. On a Sunday afternoon, there was a bit of traffic, people returning to Hobart, I guess.
In Alonnah I met cyclists again, Aldrik & Amélie, a young French couple who arrived just a few days ago in Hobart and will stay for a year on a working holiday visa.
Allonah has a general store, but smaller than the one in Adventure Bay.
I ate a big hamburger for lunch, needing the calories.

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The Statue for ‘Father John’ who arrived in Tasmania in February 1933. He travelled from Dennes Point in North Brunny via bush tracks by push-bike to Alonnah on South Bruny where he did a lot for the local community.
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Father John, on his push-bike, and my push-bike, 86 years later.

After Allonah, the road leads back to the Isthmus. I stop and climb the 233 steps again to the lookout platform.
Just after the small landing strip, a track leads to Cape Queen Elizabeth. It’s a hiking trail, but wide and flat enough to cycle a large part of the way. ‘Big Lagoon’ on my right hand is completely dry, and so is ‘Little Lagoon’ a bit further on.
The difference between the big and the small one, is that the small one had nice, very short grass inside (eaten by the rabbits and kangaroos, I guess).

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Big Lagoon

I hiked down to Moorina Bay which is the far end of Neck Beach before returning to a brilliant camping spot I found earlier, a few kilometer from the main road, with the sound of the waves at the other side of the dunes, it will be really peaceful tonight.
A lot of snakes around, but they tend to go away when they see me.
Oh, and the sun came out after 6 pm.
Lovely evening, watched thousands of stats and the Milky Way.

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Day 25: 4 March 2019
From Little Lagoon to Great Bay
50,18 km (Total so far: 968,10 km) – Altitude climbed: 785 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind in afternoon

A sweet quite night made me wake up just after sunrise. I could see the sky changing it’s colors before the sun came over the hill.
On the program today: visit the northern part of Bruny Island.

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Ford Bay

The first part of the way I rode already last week, all the way back to my first nights’ camp from where I continued along Simmonds Bay to Barnes Bay.
On Killora road, there’s a moderate climb over the hill and the junction to the Old Quarantine Station which I visit (open Thu. to Mon.).
Really interesting. The volunteer park ranger tells you passionately about the history of the place which served as a quarantine place both for plants and for humans on different occasions.
Two people died here during the quarantine period of the Spanish Influenza after WW I.
The park ranger also told me that hottest day ton 2 March really was the hottest day ever on Bruny, with at one point of the island a record of 39.2 °C.
I hiked to the graves of the two men who died here, visited the old buildings, etc…
Two hours were gone quickly.

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View to Shelter Cove from the Old Quarantine Station
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The graves of the two people who died in the Quarantine Station.
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Long house in the Quarantine Station.

After the Quarantine Station follows another climb with excellent views towards Tasmania and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in between.
Nebraska Beach, towards the northern end of the island is a disappointment. Still beautiful, but compared to the other beaches on the island not so good. Many sheds for boats on the beach, houses, ….

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Road at North-Bruny along the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.

At Dennes Point, the far north one can take water again at the sanitary facilities.
There is nothing else on the northern part of the island. no shops and, as far as I could see, no restaurants.
From Dennes Point the road climbs steep to Dennes hill (120 m asl).
There is a house right at the top. they have views to both sides of the island the the D’Entrecasteaux Channel on one side and Bull Bay on the other side.

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Bull Bay

Bull Bay, which one views from the top of the hill looks marvelous as well.
I returned to a camping spot I discovered earlier on right next to Great Bay.
Nice sunset, brilliant night sky, … a good day again.

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My spot at Great Bay

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Day 26: 5 March 2019
Great Bay
Weather: Sunny

A rest day during which I occupy myself with the usual things, reading on the Kindle, play with the computer as long as battery life permitted me to do so, walked on the beach, slept and oh, I went to the Beer, Cheese and Bread shop two kilometer from my camping spot to buy a bread and a piece of cheese. I finished the shellite in my stove, so can’t cook anymore.

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One bread and a piece of approx. 150 gram cheese will set you back 28 AUD (18 Euro) on Bruny.  But it tastes good 😛
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Great Bay

Day 27: 6 March 2019
From Bruny Island, Great Bay to Kettering
20,93 km (Total so far: 989,03 lm) – Altitude climbed: 341 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain, some sun

Last night there was a terrible storm. Looking at the ‘YR’ website, it stated wind force 9 in my area. I was camped just along the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the wind just blew in from the southwest right into my tent, so it could even have been a bit stronger there.
Windforce 9 means between 75 & 88 km/hr and ‘children are blown away’ according to the Beaufort table.
Windforce 10, adults are blown down. Well, I was laying down in the tent anyway.
I was hoping that tree right behind my tent, of which half came down in a previous storm, would hold up one more time.
It rained, it hailed and sprankels came through the flysheet.
That’s where a good water column comes in handy (dreaming about a Hilleberg Unna again).
When it stopped raining for a moment I went out to fasten the pegs better again.
It calmed down overnight and I could pack a dry tent in the morning.
Squeezed out another hot drink with the last drops of fuel and went to the ferry terminal. Half way a good downpour of course.

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This time I got the large ferry to go back to Kettering.
I contacted a Warm Shower host to spend the night. I enjoyed a warm welcome, that shower and even a great diner with Stan and his wife.
Tomorrow, back to the big town, and hopefully a bit further.

Bruny Island was a fantastic experience. I stayed six days and cycled more than 200 kilometer on the island.

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Australia Prt 2, Tasmania: Strahan to Hobart

Route: Strahan – Queenstown – Derwent Bridge – Ouse – Hobart

Day 12 & 13: 19 & 20 Febr. 2019
5 km before Macquarie Heads
Weather: Cloudy, sun, rain showers

Two rest days. My chosen spot is remarkably quiet. Only one 4WD each day passes. Maybe a ranger doing his tour ? I can’t be seen anyway. The days aren’t actually that bad with regular periods of sun. Although that’s only here, right at the coast. A bit further, in the hills, it will be much wetter.

Day 14: 21 Febr. 2019
From 5 km before Macquarie Heads to 12 km before Queenstown
51,86 km (Total so far: 416,95 km) – Altitude climbed: 864 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain showers, light tail wind

The weather wasn’t too inviting to go out and I had food and water enough to stay another day but despite the excellent Therm-A-Rest NeoAir mattress, my favorite piece of equipment, I started to feel my back from being horizontal so lang.
First down to the Macquarie Heads. The peninsula ends at a beach where there’s a very narrow channel of water between the Southern Ocean and the inlet. Few people with their 4WD on the beach.
Why ?
Why you have to drive with your 4WD on the beach ?
Can’t they walk these last few meters ?
Can’t they forbid this ?
so many things are forbidden in this country.
But they won’t do that, because the majority likes to ride their 4WD on the beach and that’s democracy.

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Macquarie Heads, the Kelly Channel / Hells Gates

Back in Strahan I go find that bakery they told me about back in Zeehan. He still have a few pieces of ok bread. Much better anyway than the cardboard bread you find in the supermarket.

The road towards Queenstown climbs back into the hills, but never really steep, and is quieter as expected. I think I’m riding ride behind the heaviest rain showers because the road is constantly very wet, but I keep it dry.
At the highest point there’s a look-out for the tourists. All I see is dark grey clouds and rain everywhere around me.
Starting to look for a place for the tent, I find that it really must have been raining a lot here the last days. It’s all mud and on the patches of moss I find, I sink five centimeter into the water.

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Eventually I find a stony place under the electricity lines.
And, as so often, when I start pitching the tent, a serious rain shower starts.
Never can keep it fully dry for a day in western Tasmania 😉

Day 15: 22 Febr. 2019
From 12 km before Queenstown to +/- 4 km after Victoria Pass
54,01 km (Total so far: 470,96 km ) – Altitude climbed: 906 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain, sunshine, moderate tail wind

There is a Thai restaurant in Queenstown !
That’s the most important news of the day.
For the rest, Queenstown is a sad place. You see the ugly mining operations from far away. Most houses in town are of the corrugated iron variety. No, it’s nothing like the ‘posh’ Queenstown in New-Zealand.

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The ugly results of mining operations

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After shopping and lunch I start the long ride east. I say long because I’m dreading this part of my route. It’s again the highway A10 and I fear it will be too busy to be enjoyable. There are no alternatives.
During the steep climb out of Queenstown, traffic is indeed a bit too dense to be enjoyable, but less than expected. At the first little pass I park the bike and walk the boardwalk path along the Horsetail Waterfall. It’s an easy twenty minute return.
Nonetheless I see only one couple going to the end as well. Most give up half way and return to the safety of their vehicles.
At the other side of the road is another highlight, only 900 meters away and a little climb, the ‘Iron Blow’ look-out with an impressive view in the pit and the surrounding destroyed landscapes.

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To the right the Horsetail Waterfall and to the left you can clearly see the boardwalk track they made to a viewing platform. Impressive.

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Iron Blow

Here in Queenstown, they mine for copper, back in Zeehan it was silver, in Corinna gold and in Waratah it was zinc. A lot of different minerals in such a small area.
Bad for the environment, but good for (someone’s) economy.

After all these diversions, I loose all the altitude again on the downhill towards Burbury Lake.
The road is quieter and becomes even pleasant to ride.

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Burbury Lake

Climbing away from the lake, I ride through an area that must have burned down a couple of years ago.
Nelson Falls is the real highlight of the day.
I forgot to go and have a look to the Montezuma Falls when I was in Zeehan (to busy staying ahead of the rain). But this Nelson Fall really makes up for it.

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Nelson Falls

The road climbs steady but not too steep. After almost two weeks on the island, I pass today only the second motorbike rider who says high to me. In Europe and America, almost all motorbike riders great cyclists.
A little bit after this guy, his wife follows on another bike. She is just being overtaken by a small white car in a blind bend off the road. In my rearview mirror I see how the guy stops and make the car stop as well. I hear him shout to the driver.
He is 100 % right to do so and I wonder whether I should turn around and give him some moral support, but he seems man enough to handle it himself.
You would be surprised what kind of impatient idiots pass you in a day.
It’s much better here as in South-America of course, but they aren’t super-good here eithr. I would say just a bit above Belgium.
I would give the drivers here 60%.
So far, Sweden and Spain (away from the costa’s) are the only two countries I cycled with a top rating for car drivers.
Just one step lower follow Norway, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
I haven’t cycled in Austria yet, but I guess they would be good as well.
Go, go Austrians, do your best and become the third country on the top shelve.

I hope the wife of this motorbike rider doesn’t say to him tonight “Hey Chuck, your reaction today on the road was a bit over the top, don’t you think ?”.
Because no, Chuck was completely right so I hope his wife Yoko supports him. Yoko is 100% Caucasian, but her parents were big fans of….. well, you get it.
Yoko’s younger brother, Julian, will never be able to ride motorbikes because he hasbalance disorders which is the fault of Yoko and Julian’s mother who smoked too much when she was pregnant of Julian.
Back when she was pregnant of Yoko, she wasn’t smoking yet.
Nigel, their father has a hand in that, but that’s another story.

While I heard Chuck’s motorbike still being stationary on the road I climbed and climbed towards the highest point of the day, Victoria Pass.
I just finished taking the obligatory picture when I met the first other cyclist on the road here in Tasmania, Pavel from Poland (there was Olivier from Belgium, but I met him on the boat, not on the road). Pavel arrived after a journey of three days and four flights into Hobart and will cycle for three weeks on the island. He is going the other way around, so I might meet him again.

This morning, I packed a soaking wet tent but finally, finally after it was promised, and delayed, for days on end, the sun came out in the afternoon.
I stop in time so my tent can dry a bit, I make a pasta with fresh vegetables from Queenstown and yes… I had a brilliant day today.
Only those damn mosquito’s in the evening.

Day 16: 23 Febr. 2019
From +/- 4 km after Victoria Pass to passed Lake St. Claire
65,60 km (Total so far: 536,56 km) – Altitude climbed: 1000 m
Weather: Sunny, no wind

Everything is perception.
Yesterday I started cycling in a temperature of 13 degrees and it was cloudy, a drizzle, miserable.
Today too I started cycling in a temperature of 13 degrees but under a blue sky. What a difference and what a joy.
A passing motor biker even turned his head and gave me the thumbs up.

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A misty morning, but soon the weather would become glorious.  Passing the Great Divide, it did exactly what it promised.

Someone had sprayed ‘Meat Head’ in white letters on the road and I wondered whether this referred to the English version of the Flemish movie ‘Rundskop’ which made me think of the overrated actor Matthias Schoenaerts.
I think the three best actors of recent decades are Steve Buscemi, David Suchet and Brad Pitt, in that order.
The three most overrated actors, in no particular order, are Nicholas Cage, Tom Cruise and Matthias Schoenaerts. Schoenaerts probably thinks he’s in nice company there, but he’s wrong.

After an hour of cycling I reach Donaghys Hill where I stop to hike to the lookout. It’s good to stretch the legs a bit in the morning. From the lookout you have a good view to the peak of Frenchmans Cap, I think the highest peak in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park through which I’m riding now.

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Frenchmans Cap to the right

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Another stop a bit further brings me to the narrow suspension bridge over the Franklin River where I have a chat with three guys who go out to climb Frenchmans Cap from different sides in the coming week.

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The road is climbing to a highest point of 839 meter. They call it ‘The Great Divide’ here as well. I’m now officially entering the drier eastern side of Tasmania. To my right is the King William Range with the impressive Mount Rufus.

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King William Range, Mount Rufus.

The ride remains very pleasant and soon I’m in Derwent Bridge where’s the junction to Lake St. Clair, five kilometer further. It’s a nice lake. I walk around a bit but the sun is in no good position to make really good pictures. The campground is apparantely 30 dollar for a tent, which I foind too much, so I head out again and find myself a place in the forest a few kilometer passed the lake.

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When I start preparing diner, I see a leech, and another one, and another one.
I kill five and am now worried about both the mosquito’s attacking me and these leeches. I had one once in my foot in Thailand, years ago, and it’s no fun.

Day 17: 24 Feb. 2019
From passed Lake St. Clair to passed Victoria Falls
60,52 km (Total so far: 597,08 km) – Altitude climbed: 621 m
Weather: Sunny, light head wind

Searching on the internet this morning, I find the Florentine Valley Road is still closed due to the forest fires they had. This means my route south, which I planned to stay west of the A10, so via Wayatinah and Maydena is impossible.
No problem, then we take the back-up plan, i.e. following the Tasmanian Trail.
I skip the junction with the ‘Fourteen Mile’ gravel road, which looked nice enough to cycle, and continued on the A10, which seems busier on a Sunday as yesterday.

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Mount Olympus

A downhill to the Nive River, which created an 80 meter deep valley, then steep up to the junction with the Marlborough Road.
I don’t go to Bronte Park, where there’s supposed to be a store as it’s an 8 km return trip on that road which carries too much traffic.

At Bronte Lake, I see a sign that tells me I’m almost exactly in the geographical centre of Tasmania.
Now I can finally leave the paved Lyell Highway (A10) behind me and join the dirt roads of the Tasmanian Trail. Still lots of roadkill shows some still drive like madmen here.

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The gravel road goes up but all goes smoothly. For the first time here in Australia, I’m on a road where I feel comfortable enough to take my music player out and listen to a few podcasts of ‘The Outdoor Station’. Soon I’m riding along Dee Lagoon. The country here reminds me a lot of Sweden and Finland. Only a different kind of trees.

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Even on the gravel roads, roadkill
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The official Tasmanian Trail signs.

I change the podcasts for some music.
The shuffle function decides The Tide is High from Blondie is the first song I hear in Australia. It’s nice to ride with music sometimes. All those years I’ve never changed the music on my player but there are thousands of songs, so I’m good till I die.
DSC04519That bothers me, while I’m riding here, that I don’t know when to use the word ‘dead’ or ‘death’.
I’m thinking about it but can’t figure it out. English is only my third language, so it won’t be perfect or sophisticated.

Anyway, the sun on my head, gravel roads, hearing the hits one after the other… Simple Minds with Belfast Child, Michael Jackson’s Leave Me Alone, Taco with Puttin’ on the Ritz, the Eurythmics with 1984 (song almost as good as the book), life is very good again.

I make a stop at the Victoria Falls.
Being away from the tourist highway, the path is completely overgrown, but I want to go and have a look anyway. It safes me a visit to Zimbabwe.

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Bees at work. Lots of local honey is sold along Tasmania’s Roads.

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Typical gravel road along the middle section of the Tasmanian Trail.

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The impressive Victoria Falls !

After the falls, I’m on a much lesser used gravel road, going through a forest.
At 4 o’clock, I see I’m about to leave the forest and go back into open grass land. It’s hot, the land is probably for cattle and fenced off so I stop early and enjoy the terrific view I have and the great weather.

No leeches, but plenty of horseflies out here.
Just because perfect isn’t necessary 🙂

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Wild camping at on the hill with great views to the dry land ahead of me.

Day 18: 25 Febr. 2019
From the forest passed Victoria Falls to
35,99 km (Total so far: 633,07 km) – Altitude climbed: 763 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate and hard head wind

Some bike maintenance before I left today. Cleaning the bike is the best way to spot any potential problems. I checked if all the screws of the pannier racks were still tight, cleaned the chain and chainrings and lubed the chain.

It was a very, very beautiful ride into Ouse. On a dirt road, rolling hills with beige, dry grass, cattle in the fields.
Terrific.
Riding in the opposite direction, it would be hard as there was a 13% downhill.

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Did some shopping and laundry in Ouse. The temperatures went up to 35 °C in the shade so it all dried in an hour. As it was so hot, I took my time to relax at a picnic table under a roof in the small park. Got to chat way to long with a couple from New-Zealand, and later on with two ladies, one from New South Wales the other from America, so it was 3:30 pm by the time I was on my way again.

From Ouse to the Repulse Dam, the ride was again very beautiful. Some steep inclines, but never too bad.
After the dam, it got too hard.
Very steep climbs and the a connection between two existing dirt roads via a logging road. Steep down to the Broad River. No bridge there, so cross it through the water.
The uphill was less steep as the downhill (16 %), but nevertheless mostly unrideable with this bike set-up. This is real bikepacking country.

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The Derwent River, which I crossed already at Derwent Bridge a couple of days ago.
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The track becoming a real logging track, with steep climbs and descents.

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Short, hard, beautiful day.
But rethinking whether I should keep following the Tasmanian trail further south, as I know it will be more of the unrideable stuff with my heavy bike towards Judbury. It also remains unclear which tracks exactly are open and which are closed (from the recent forest fires) near Judbury.

Day 19: 26 Febr. 2019
From 15 km before Ellendale to Along A10 Highway
79,47 km (Total so far: 712,54 km) – Altitude climbed: 864 m
Weather: Sunny, medium head wind

A day with a bit of everything.
I left my quiet camp site in the middle of nowhere and soon was on the paved road towards Ellendale. The local post office is also a very basic general store (sweets, a coffee) and I had a nice chat with Charlie who operated it.

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So far, riding in Tasmania has been very satisfying. Only negative things are too much road kill and unexpectedly, too much empty cans and bottles along the roads, even in the national parks. Sometimes, you find roadkill and garbage united.
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With his or her eyes wide open on the asphalt, as if to say…
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The Ellendale Post Office with Charlie.

I skipped the off-road detour the Tasmanian Trail made here, because I heard it is pretty difficult stuff. So I continued through Westerway, the junction to Mount Field National Park. It’s Tasmania’s most popular national park, and I saw a lot of traffic going there, so I skipped it.

After Westerway I joined the Tasmania Trail again for some brilliant off-road sections. I passed a big field where the fire fighters were breaking down their tents. Helicopters were still flying on and off. The lady who lived in the house next to the field told me they’ve been here a long time but were moving today to a place closer to the fires.
It has been very loud for her lately, she sad, with all the helicopters.

My route continues on the hill, above the main road. Good views.

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At Bushy Park, it’s back to the asphalt, which I follow towards busy New Norfolk.
Dilemma here.
The Tasmania Trail goes west into the mountains from what I was told via very steep tracks.
The other options are the highway A10 towards Hobart, or the B10 at the other side of the Derwent River.
I saw a local police officer at the Woolworths supermarket. He claimed the A10 would be the safer option as, according to him, more trucks were using the B10.
I sat down for half an hour thinking what to do.
Honestly, with around 700 altimeters in my legs, and the hard day yesterday, I didn’t feel ready for the hard ride over the mountain via the TT.
On the other hand, I am never ready for busy roads either.
Still, I took the latter option.
Because it’s easier, because then I could pick up my Garmin inreach plb before going to Bruny Island and see whether it works (and if not, I was passing through Hobart anyway again on my way back), and I could visit the Mona.

It is a horrible ride along the A10.
My advise, don’t be a wimp like me and take the Tasmania Trail.
The C615 (Molesworth Road) was closed until March, but I took that turn anyway, hoping to find a spot to camp.
All private land.
I took the Glen Dhu Road, but same situation.
So back to the A10.

Kilometers further I found something in a dead end road near a tomato grower.
Nothing fancy, lot of traffic noise, but close to the big town.

Day 20: 27 Feb. 2019
From Along A10 highway to Hobart
18,27 km (Total so far: 730,81 km) – Altitude climbed: 131 meter
Weather: Sunny

Continued the drag along the A10.
You know, they have a railway, all the way from Hobart to Mount Field National Park.
A railway that is not used at all.
With a small budget, a little work and a bit of good will, they could turn this easily in a rail trail that could benefit the people of Hobart, the people of New Norfolk, which could be a boost for local tourism, in an eco friendly way, which could also be used by local cyclists…. but they choose to leave it unused.
A pity.

Closer to town, there is a bicycle way leading through town, and passing the Mona (Museum of Old & New Art).
World famous, so I decided to go and have a look.
It’s a nice thing. I was inside for almost 5 hours.
Mostly new art.
I still think the Te Papa museum in Wellington, New-Zealand was even more impressive, although it’s been 14 years since I was there, so maybe hard to compare.

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Modern Art from Belgian Wim Delvoye

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This Porsche 911 symbols the way everything, including people are getting fatter and fatter.
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There’s also a bike in the Mona ! 🙂
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MONA
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From WimDelvoy, who has a crane in Westende as well.
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Wim Delvoye
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Painted windows inside the Wim Delvoye Chapel.

Anyway, very glad I visited the Mona.
Ended the day at the campsite in Hobart, which is terrible, and loud and not my thing, but necessary for a night.

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Hobart campsite
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Trying to charge as many devices as possible from one plug.

 

Australia Prt 1, Tasmania: Devonport to Strahan

Route: Devonport – Wilmot – Cradle Mountain – Corinna – Strahan

After an eleven hour flight from Brussels to Bangkok (with a 24 hrs delay), a nine hour flight from Bangkok to Melbourne and an eleven hour ferry trip from Melbourne to Devonport, I am, finally, ready to start my trip Down Under. A trip which will hopefully show me some of the natural wonders in Tasmania and after that a whole lot of dry desert scenery, fantastic wild camping spots and solitude on the Australian main land.
I start off with a day by day story of my trip, but might change that format whenever I like to do so 😉
Here we go !

Day 1: 08 Febr. 2019
Melbourne

Arrived at 13:00 hrs in Melbourne from Bangkok. The immigration went really smooth. No more stamps in your passport when you enter Australia (what a shame). It’s all electronically. As I have visa for one year, I’m good until 8 February 2020.
The luggage nor the bike were checked (but where clean anyway).
I bought a Telstra sim-card at the airport and headed straight for the taxi stand to bring
me to my hotel where I assembled the bike and the stove. No time left to enjoy the swimming pool.
All good to go tomorrow.

Day 2: 09 Febr. 2019
Melbourne
35,40 km (Total so far: 35,40 km ) – Altitude climbed: 336 m
Weather: Cloudy

I managed to drive all the way to the center of Melbourne via bike paths through parks or separated from main roads. A route I prepared at home.
Tried to find a Garmin inReach plb in the CBD, but not successful.
I rode a bit around the modern town, visited the tourist information and then headed towards the Fitzroy Gardens where one can find a bungalow where the parents of Captain Cook used to live. It has been shipped from England to Melbourne.
From the gardens I cycled to Yarra Park with the big Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Melbourne Arena and the only thing I really wanted to see in town, the Rod Laver Arena where the Australian Open are played.

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Along the bike path riding from the north of Melbourne into the Central Business District (CBD)
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The bungalow of Captain Cooks’ parents.
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Melbourne Cricket Ground
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Read those regultaions. Imagine that in a European football stadium.
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Those who have been herebefore… John Mcenroe, Mats Wilander, Justine Henin, Naomi Osaka, …. and now me 😀
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For the fans, Fleetwood Mac will come in September !
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What a career, Rod Laver.

There’s a bike path all along the Yarra river to the port where I would catch the ferry tonight. Due to Chinese New Year, it was packed with people and Chinese food stalls.
In one of the Bunnings Warehouses I found Shellite (Australian version of White Gas) for the stove.
At 19:00 hrs I was at the pier, ready to board the ‘Spirit Of Tasmania I’. One other cyclist showed up, another Belgian Olivier.

On board the ship, I buy immediately an eight week visitor pass for Tasmania’s national parks.
Due to high winds, the passage was rough once we left Port Phillip Bay and entered the Bass Strait. Spend late into the night chatting with Olivier before we retreated for the night.

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Modern Melbourne, seen from a bridge over the Yarra River near the Rod Laver Arena.

Day 3: 10 Febr. 2019
Devonport
4,7 km (Total so far: 40,10 km) – Altitude climbed: 100 m
Weather: Cloudy, some rain

Hans, an online contact who invited me to stay the first night with him on Tasmania was waiting at the terminal when we arrived a bit after 7 am. Olivier was invited as well for a superb breakfast, prepared by Claudia, Hanses wife and Ava, who was staying as well for a couple of nights with her husband.
Spend the rest of the day sleeping and relaxing.

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Map on board of the Spirit of Tasmania, indicating in black the areas on fire.
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Dawn, first views of Tasmania.

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Olivier, the other Belgian cyclist and Hans, my host the first day on Tasmania.

Day 4: 11 Febr. 2019
Devonport – near Lower Wilmot
29,76 km (Total so far: 69,86 km) – Altitude climbed: 664 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain – light head wind

I rolled the steep (almost 20%) hill down from Hans’ house back into Devonport to do some shopping.
Even before leaving town, I had to shelter for my first Tasmanian downpour. Instead of riding the suggested route to Cradle Mountain via Sheffield, I was stubborn and followed my own, hillier but quieter option via Melrose and Paloona.
Boy, did I suffer on these climbs. It’s been 4,5 months since I rode a loaded touring bike and 12 to 15% climbs seem to be the rule here.
Crossing Forth River, I had to tackle ‘Gentle Annie Hill’.
Half way up, less than 30 kilometer in my ride, I felt it was time to call it a day.
Pushed the bike 30 meter higher up a deserted forest track and pitched the tent.

Day 5: 12 Febr. 2019
Near Lower Wilmot
Weather: Rain

Rain all day.
Stayed in the tent, sleeping and reading.

Day 6: 13 Febr. 2019
Lower Wilmot to 20 km before Cradle Mountain
44,31 km (Total so far: 114,17 km ) – Altitude climbed: 1167 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, rain – light head wind

From my camping spot, I continued crawling up ‘Gentle Annie Hill’.
Now, Annie might have been gentle perhaps, the hill surely wasn’t. The weather is ever changing from clouds, to a bit of blue sky and sun, to downpours. After approx. 20 km I reached the small village of Wilmot, with a post office annex village store. They have a picknick spot with shelter in town as well.
After Wilmot the road goes STEEP (+ 15%) up. I even had to push the last part. You don’t go unpunished for almost five months without cycling. It will take many weeks again before I will be in some sort of shape. And these first weeks will be the hardest of the coming year if you look at the terrain. Hard parts will follow on the mainland as well when I’m in the dry desert with sometimes loose sand. But most of the climbing will be here in Tasmania.

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A sunny morning, Mount Roland in the distance.
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Lake Barrington in front of Mount Roland

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After Moina, where the road from Sheffield joins, the traffic becomes uncomfortably busy at times.
I find a nice sheltered spot for the tent around 4 pm. Finished the book ‘From Ocean to Ocean’ from Jerome J. Murif which I started months ago. Excellent book from a guy who cycled in 1897 (!) from Adelaide at Australia’s south coast to Darwin in the north.

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Good wild camp up the plateau, before Cradle Mountain.  Spotted my first Wombat here.

Day 7: 14 Febr. 2019
20 km before Cradle mountain to Cradle Mountain
14,33 km (Total so far: 128,50 km ) – Altitude climbed: 269 m
Weather: Rain – moderate & strong head wind

I woke up to slight a drizzle and took my time for breakfast. A short dry period allowed me to pack the soaking wet tent. By the time I was on the road, it rained again, and only ever harder and harder. Combine that with a strong head wind and a bit too much traffic and there’s nothing to get really happy about.
At the turn of to Cradle Mountain I doubted for a moment whether it would be worth going there in these conditions. You see nothing but grey cloud at the moment.
I went down anyway. At least I could warm up a bit in the visitor information centre.
They have shuttle buses driving all the way up to Dove Lake and back, dropping passengers off at various points along the road.
I decided not to go today.
It just kept raining, and raining and raining.
I installed myself at the camp ground. 25 dollar for a non-powered spot for a small tent and one person.
Something with ‘lumpsum’ prices etc.. where did I hear that before.…
Fortunately there’s a nice shelter where I can work a bit on my laptop and recharge some batteries. The weather should be better tomorrow for a visit to Tasmania’s most famous mountain.
It took me enough efforts to get up here, I want to see it at least 🙂

I spend the afternoon and evening in the chalet at the campground where they have fires, chatting with David and Paula from Blanes in Catalunya, Spain and surfing the internet.

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With David & Paula at the Cradle Mountain campground.

Day 8: 15 Febr. 2019
Cradle Mountain to few km before Waratah
55,31 km (Total so far: 183,81 km) – Altitude climbed: 614 m
Weather: Sun, no wind

Well, it was worth the wait. A sunny, warm day, excellent to explore the national park a bit. After breaking down the tent (again check-out is latest at 10:00 am. Australia doesn’t allow its guests to sleep in a bit, it seems), I hurry down to the visitor centre and hop on the bus towards Dove Lake. The two hour circuit around the lake is the parks most popular hike and probably rightfully so as you have continuous marvelous views towards Cradle Mountain. It’s an easy hike, with too many people on the path. Nonetheless I’m happy to have the good fortune to have these views towards the mountain. According to the shuttle bus driver, only about 65 days a year the weather is as clear as today.

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Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. Worth the wait, no ?

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This thing…
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…turns into this thing, I think.

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More Cradle Mountian
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The ‘Old Boat Shack’.

After the Dove Lake circuit, I take the shuttle bus towards Ronny Creek to hike the ‘Cradle Valley Boardwalk’. As the name suggests, the walk is all on wooden boardwalks (as is much around Dove Lake as well). It must have been an enormous job to make this thing.
Unlike Dove Lake, I see no other hikers here and I enjoy this walk tremendously.
Recommended !

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Obviously, the ‘Cradle Valley Boardwalk’.

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Back in the visitor centre I jump on the bike so I can also enjoy my first meters of cycling in the sun on Tasmania.
I’m now on the Belvoir Road riding through the nature park with the same name.
Stil some steep climbing to be done, but at the summit there’s a nice, final lookout over the Cradle Valley and towards Cradle Mountain, now in the far distance.
Cradle Mountain is also where the famous ‘Overland Track’ starts. Probably a fantastic hike (about 10 days), but you’re only a few decades too late if you want to hike it.
Too popular, too crowded.
But, there is also something like the ‘Penguin Cradle Trail’, and I believe that could be really worth the effort, and not crowed at all.

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I met this angry chap on the road.
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But he’d met a car before seeing me.
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Luckily, this shy guy was still doing okay.
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Still up on the plateau, Belvoir Reserve.

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From the lookout, a final look-back towards Cradle Mountain in the distance.

At home, I had spend some time to search for possible roads to avoid the main roads as much as possible. My first dirt road option, about 16 km from Cradle Mountain was already a fiasco.
The road was closed, claiming it was private land. There was a phone number on that sign, so I thought I’d ring them and ask permission.
No phone reception here.
So I carried on on the main road, knowing there was a second possibility a few kilometer further on. This second road (Murrays Plain Road) was open.
What a joy, being off the asphalt road.
But only for a kilometer.
Road closed again.

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Closed dirt roads.  I could pass them, but am too new to the country to estimate how much worth I should value to these signs.

If that’s how it is over here with all this small roads I wanted to take, I can’t risk going all the way back to the north west point at Smithton via these small roads. After consulting the map, there seem to be three options:
– Riding to Waratah and then to Corinna
– Riding to Rosebery and then take the small road (if open) via the Montezuma Falls to Zeehan
– Riding directly to Queenstown.

I chose the first option, because it still gives me the most kilometers on the island, and I will still ride through the Tarkine forest.
It is also the shortest stretch on the A 10, Murchison Highway (not a highway as we know it in Europe).
On a Friday evening, the highway is very quiet. But still, after only 150 kilometer on Tasmania, I have already the second beer can thrown at me from a passing car. I was warned these things happen here. What a shame these rutters never have the balls to stop their car and face me when I invite them to.

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A few kilometer before Waratah is the Old Cemetery Road, which I followed and pitched the tent in the forest.
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Most of the graves were from young children, or people in their teens or twenties only.

Day 9: 16 Febr. 2019
From few km before Waratah to 10 km before Corinna
58,77 km (Total so far: 242,58 km) – Altitude climbed: 942 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, light tail wind

Waratah is a neat little town. No real shop, but the road house has a decent selection.
On a Saturday the road from Waratah to Savage River is very quiet, say about three cars an hour. No idea whether there would be mining or logging trucks during the week.

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The Waratah Road House.

The road goes up and down, some steeper sections but never too bad.
The lookout from Whyte Hill over the Tarkine wilderness is impressive. A friendly couple from Melbourne who arrive at the lookout fill up my water bottle and share a few cookies.
Apart from beer can throwers, I meet a lot of nice people, who always take their time for a chat.

From the lookout, it’s steep down towards Whyte River and, it can’t be avoided, a steep climb back up. If you don’t cycle for 4,5 months, you get punished. Your shape does not come back in a few days.
But, I take it easy and try to make days where I don’t have to climb more than a thousand meter.

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View over the Tarkine Wilderness.  ‘Cool Temperate Rain Forest’, the largest such area in Australia.  Unfortunately rain forests means a lot of rain.

I’m lucky by the way I’m here today. Tomorrow the road between Waratah and Savage River will be closed for a car rally.
It must be a strange rally, because it only goes till Savage River.
Savage River, an ugly mining places polluting the whole area, is where the asphalt stops and the dirt road starts. And I always thought rally’s were meant to be ridden away from asphalt.

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End of the paved road at Savage River.

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Ten kilometer before Corinna, I see a small track going away from my dirt road. I check it out as a camping option and bingo !
Excellent place, nice flat area and views towards what I believe must be Mount Meredith.
There’s a big ant hill eight meters away from my tent, but even they don’t disturb my paradise for the night.
I make a nice pasta dish and read Herman Brusselmans book ‘Hij schreef te weinig boeken’.
639 pages, should keep me occupied for a little while.

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Day 10: 17 Febr. 2019
From 10 km before Corinna to 5 km before Zeehan
57,23 km (Total so far: 299,81 km) – Altitude climbed: 906 m
Weather: Cloudy, light tail wind

I was sleeping at 8 pm and woke up at 7 am.
Good. I’m in my rhythm again.
After years of sleep deprivation due to my job, there’s nothing more valuable than a good night’s rest.
Eleven hours is perfect.
On the road by 9:15 am. That’s early for me.

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View towards Mount Meredith (?) in the morning.

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Just before reaching Corinna, an idiot in a red Subaru with such a huge Thule roof coffin came racing in from the opposite direction and coming around the corner, almost lost control of his old car, missing me at a meter or so.
Dirt roads are not necessarally safer.
At Corinna, you can rent huts, or camp, but at 40 dollars, I find the rate a bit on the high side.
I do go in for a coffee and a brownie though. They have a small ‘shop’ in the café, but it’s basically just cookies and shampoo they sell. There’s a water tank with rain water to fill your water bottles.

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Corinna is an old gold mining place. There are information boards everywhere, telling the history of the place.
I also make a small hike along the Pieman River.
No bridge here. Crossing the river is by barge.
It takes two minutes and costs 13 dollar for a bicycle.
I guess they are saving for a bridge.

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DSC04213After crossing the Pieman River, the roads climbs steep out of the valley (13 %).
You climb up, lose half of that, climb back up, lose again half of that.
So it goes on for a while until you are at two hundred meters again, when the road becomes undulating and easy all the way to Zeehan, with a few steeper exceptions only.

At the junction between the Pieman Road and the Heemskirk Road, the first one is closed due to forest fires that are still going on, despite all the recent rain.
I have to go the other way anyway. First I cross the Tasman River, then head towards Heemskirk Mountain, Heemskirk River before entering a huge section that has been burned completely very recently.
I camp 5 kilometer before Zeehan. It’s not the most picturesque place, but it will do.

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The ferry over the Piaman River at Corinna
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Pieman River

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On a sunny day, I guess this looks much less bleak.
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riding towards Mount Heemskirk.

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The huge burned down area before Zeehan. And this was a small fire, compared to those in the centre of the island.
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Camping a few km before Zeehan. To the left the burned area.

Day 11: 18 Febr. 2019
From to 5 km before Zeehan to – 4 km before Macquarie Heads (Strahan)
65,28 km (Total so far: 365,09 km ) – Altitude climbed: 474 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain, light & medium tail wind

Zeehan used to be the third biggest town in Tasmania. These days are long gone, if you look at the place now. Still, I like it. It has a couple of nice old buildings like the Gaiety Theatre from 1898, the Central Hotel, an old building from the Post, …
Here, in Zeehan, I visit my first Iga supermarket. During my preparation, I found out it will be the first of many. They are the chain that will supply you in smaller places where the bigger players like Coles and Woolworths won’t go.

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I guess a Wallaby. For every living one, you see fifty death onces. Traffic…
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The Gaiety Theatre in Zeehan

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A church.
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And a Catholic church.
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My first IGA supermarket.

After Zeehan I have the option to go directly to Queensland or make a loop via Strahan. I chose the second option, as that seemed like the smaller road on the map, and also because the weather seemed less grey in that direction 🙂
The asphalt road goes through the Mount Dundas Regional reserve. In these weather conditions, grey clouds and frequent rain showers it doesn’t look all too special. The traffic is intense as well, say never a minute between two cars passing you, often less.

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A Tasmanian Devil ?   Close to extinction due to tumors and traffic.

From the hill tops, I have views of the Southern Ocean from time to time.
There’s just a short sunny break when I arrive at the Henty Dunes so I take the opportunity to climb the 30 meter high dunes.

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Henty Dunes

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The town Strahan of which many people told me it is “sooo lovely”, is nothing really special.
Maybe the fact you can do this lame touristy cruise on the inlet or a short tourist train thing make it appealing for some.
Me, I enjoyed the public shower, went to the Iga and cycled off to the peninsula towards the Macquarie Heads with 12 liters of water and three or four days worth of food to sit out the bad weather and take a rest.

There’s a paid ‘bush camping’ at the end of the peninsula. ‘Paid bush camping’ seems a contradiction to me and surely means smashing car doors, yelling people and crying babies, so I started looking for my own place on the way. Not much to be found. All small bushes, ferns, nowhere a few free square meter out of sight. Until about four kilometer before the end of the road, where there’s a 4WD track up to ocean beach where I find a good place in the forest, well protected from the strong winds.
Kangaroos or wallaby’s (I still have to learn more about them to distinguish ‘em) hopping around at night.
Life is all good.

Thailand: Chinese New Year in Bangkok

This new trip got off to a bumpy start.
Before starting my cycling trip in Australia, I planned to show my mother around Thailand for 3,5 weeks. A few days before our departure, a blood sample that was taken to check whether I didn’t have any nasty diseases from the 25 or so thick bites I had in Bretagne three months earlier, suddenly showed a severe drop in my kidney functions. Something that was still perfect when my blood was checked in June and October 2018.
The doctor advised it wouldn’t be wise to leave on a trip like I had in mind in such a condition.

After a few visits to the hospital consulting some specialists, and after a lot of anxiety and more blood samples, all seemed to be fine after all.
  Both the doctor and the kidney
specialist don’t rule out a mistake was made with the blood samples, because such sudden drops and recovery can”t be explained in a logical way.

Anyway, the tickets to Bangkok were cancelled and our holiday was down the drain. Hopefully we can give it another try after the Australia trip.

I purchased new and of course much more expensive, tickets to fly to Bangkok on the third of February. That way I had four days in the city during the Chinese New year celebrations. But, more bad luck was lurking.
Thai Airways might have a very good reputation, my flight was cancelled 2,5 hrs before departure. Not much explanation was given but they did give me a nice room in the Sheraton Hotel at Brussels Airport.
After some asking around, it appeared the plane had a ‘technical problem’. Lufthansa does the maintenance of Thai Airways in Europe.
The spares had to come from Lufthansa’s depot in Munich.
Munich airport was closed due to snow.

DSC03702Next day, I was queuing 3 hrs before we were supposed to fly.
Long story short: Only few check-ins open. It was my turn at 10:15 hrs only. It took the incompetent lady at the check-in an hour to get the bike on the plane (although I booked it in advance).
Then I had to go and pay 150 usd to another counter of Swissport, then go to yet another place to handover the bike, and only after that, I got my boarding card.
By now it’s 11:30 am.
Boarding started at 11:20 and I still had to go through security, of which only 2 gates were open at Brussels Airport.
Then I arrived at customs, where I had a queue with a trainee.
Sigh.
I arrived at my gate after 13:00 hrs.
The plane was suppose to leave at 12:00, but was delayed again, due to congestion.

So, off to Bangkok.
I booked a hotel between Chinatown and the Chao Praya river.
Today 5 February is the start of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Pig.
Yaowarat Road, the main street in Bangkok’s Chinatown was made completely traffic free for the occasion.

First I went to Wat Traimit Wittayaram Voraviharn. This temple is where the world’s biggest Golden Buddha , aged more than 700 years, is staying. The Buddha is 3 meters tall and weighs 5,5 tons.

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The biggest Golden Buddha in the world.
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Traimit Royal Temple by night

Food !
Food alone is more then enough reason to travel to Thailand. And you don’t need to go to fancy restaurants to enjoy the very best if it.

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My favorite Thai snack: Sweet mango with sticky rice

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Chinese New Year is nothing without their dragon shows of course.
They started late afternoon on the fifth and would go on in the evening and the same the day after.

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This is the second time I’m in Bangkok’s Chinatown during their new year. It’s also the second time I see the Thai Princess Sirindhorn in real life.
I would even see here two times today.  First I saw here in the afternoon at the entrance gate of Chinatown and later in the evening again on Yaowarat Road.
She had diner in the excellent Shanghai Mansion. I had to wait for two hours with the Thai people to see her.

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The gate to Chinatown
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People excited to see Princess Sirindhorn.
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Security on Yaowarat Road for the visit of the Princess. She’s having diner in the Shanghai Mansion just to the right in the picture.
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Shanghai Mansion.
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Crowded Yaowarat Road after the Princess’ visit.

Below some more pictures of the festivities and food stalls in Chinatown.

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Back streets of Chinatown
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Street performer (singing Michael Jacksons’ Beat it).

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Kuan Yim Shrine at Yaowarat Road

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Donkey playing the guitars 🙂
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View to the Chao Praya River from the roof top of the River View Guesthouse.
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Bangkok
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Green curry chicken, always a topper.
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There was a dragon show where they had to dance on these little platforms.  A movie clip here below.
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Lonely, hungry kitten.

I only had three days in the city this time but for sure I will come back again. And for sure I am planning an extended visit of a month or so in town again.
Bangkok is now the most visited city in the world with 20 million visitors a year, ahead of London and Paris. (source: most visited cities )
And rightfully so.

Australia: The Gear List.

I tried to minimise my load a bit, compared to the South-America trip. Less cold weather gear and less rain gear, a lighter sleeping bag, etc… to create some space for extra food and water.

I’m still a big fan of Hilleberg tents, but the large Nammatj 2GT would be overkill for Australia, and it would be a pity to expose it to the Australian burning sun. So I will be leaving with the same small Salewa Micra tent I also used for my trip up and down to Spain last summer. It’s a freestanding tent, which makes life easy when I have to pitch it in loose sand or on rocky surfaces. Meanwhile, I keep dreaming of a small Hilleberg Unna.

Carrying water will be a big issue. I have two 10 liter and one 4 liter water bags. Together with the bottles on the frame and maybe some extra plastic bottles, this allows me to carry 30 + liters.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Bicycle:

  • Frame: Santos Travelmaster 2.6 alu, 19inch
  • Rims: Front Exal 36 spokes – Rear Rigida Andra 30
  • Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 2.0
  • Gears: Rohloff hub (chain rings: front 43, back 18)
  • Breaks: Shimano Deore-XT V-breakes
  • Front Racks: Tubus Ergo + Racktime Topit
  • Rear Rack: Santos travel rack (made by Tubus)
  • Saddle: Selle San Marco Rolls
  • Handle bar grips: Ergon GP5 BioKork

Bags:

  • 2 Ortlieb front roller classic panniers (25 L)
  • 2 Ortlieb back roller classic panniers (40 L)
  • 1 Ortlieb rack pack (31 L)
  • 1 Ortieb PS490 dry bag (13 Ltr)
  • Ortlieb Ultimate  6 L Plus Handlebar Bag with camera insert & Map Case
  • AcePac Fuel Bag
  • 2 AcePac Fat Bottle bags
  • Small Saddle Bag: Decathlon
  • Daypack: Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil
  • Various dry bags
  • Big bag to transport panniers on plane: Tatonka

Camping / sleeping:

  • Tent: Salewa Micra II + footprint
  • Matrasses: Thermarest Neo Air + Thermarest Z-Lite
  • Sleeping Bag: Cumulus Panyam 450
  • Liner bag: Cocoon Travelsheet (Egypt Cotton)
  • Pillow:  Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Cooking:

  • Stove: Optimus Nova multifuel expedition stove
  • Fuel bottle: Optimus 1L
  • Windscreen: Allcamp
  • Pots: Optimus Terra Lite HE cook set
  • Plate:  Plastic supermarket plate
  • Mug: Primus 4 seasons
  • Cutting board: no brand
  • 2 lighters
  • Water filter: Katadyn Hiker Pro
  • Cutlery: Primus
  • Large plastic Ikea spoon
  • Sponge
  • Small towel

Jackets:

  • Rain jacket: Gore Bike Wear Paclite
  • Down jacket: Ayacucho 
  • Fleece jacket: Haglöfs

Shirts:

  • T-shirts: 1 short sleeved & 2 long sleeved t-shirts
  • Long sleeve merino wool shirt: Icebreaker Pursuit GT260

Pants:

  • Cycling shorts:  2 Gore Bike Wear Power 3.0
  • Rain Pants: My 14 year old North Face rain pants
  • Casual pants: Quecha
  • 1 pair light running shorts (doubles as swimming pants if needed)
  • 1 Boxer shorts

Hand & head gear :

  • Cycling gloves
  • Warm Gloves: Sealskinz (All Weather Cycle XP)
  • Beanie
  • 2 Buffs
  • Field hat
  • Helmet: Zero Rh+ Zy carbon

Shoes & socks:

  • Cycling / hiking / every day Gore-Tex shoes
  • Sandals: Keen Newport
  • Overshoes: Gore Bike Wear Road Thermo
  • Thin socks: 3 pair cycling socks
  • Waterproof socks: Sealskinz

Photography:

  • Camera 1: Sony A5000 system camera with 16-50 mm & 55-210 mm lenses
  • Tiffen 40,5 mm Circular Polarizer Filter
  • Camera 2: Nikon Coolpix S5200 compact camera
  • Tripod: Joby Gorillapod
  • Batteries for Sony camera (3)
  • Camera & lens cleaning sets

Electronics:

  • Laptop: MacBook Air 11”
  • Laptop sleeve: Case Logic
  • External hard drive: 2 x Western Digital Elements 1TB
  • E-reader: Kindle Paper White 6”
  • Phone: Motorola Moto E4 Plus
  • Gps: Garmin Etrex 30x
  • Cycle computer: VDO M4 + spare battery
  • Mp3-player: Sony NWZ-A15 16gb + extra 16gb micro sd-card
  • Headphone
  • Head Torch: Petzl Tikka Xp + 3 spare AAA batteries
  • Rear bicycle light
  • Solar pannel: Goal Zero Nomad 7 + Guide 10 plus recharger
  • Power Bank: Xtorm power bank 9000 Mah
  • 10 rechargeble AA batteries for gps
  • Various chargers, cables & SD memory cards
  • Usb stick: Maxell 32 gb (usb + mini-usb connectable)
  • World travel adapter
  • Small distribution plug

Bicycle Spare Parts & Tools

  • 2 tubes
  • 1 brake cable
  • 1 Rohloff shifter cable
  • Rohloff oil change kit (5 refills)
  • 5 Rohloff Oil Drain Screws
  • 1 Rohloff ‘easy-set’
  • 2 pairs break pads
  • 1 chain + chain lock
  • Spare spokes
  • cable ties
  • screws
  • Optimus, Thermarest & Ortlieb repair kits
  • Multitool: Topeak Mini 9
  • Swiss Army knife ‘Huntsman’
  • 2 small screw drivers (flat + Philips)
  • Allen key nbr….
  • Spanner nbr 8 & 15
  • Small pliers
  • 3 Tyre levers
  • Pump: Lezyne pressure drive
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Spoke tightener
  • Chain breaker
  • KMC missing link opener & remover
  • Chain oil
  • Chain brush

Toiletries:

  • Shaver: Philips PT927
  • Tootbrush + toothpaste
  • Shampoo (used for hair, dishes & laundry)
  • 2 Washcloths
  • Towel
  • Sun cream
  • Lipbalm
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Tick remover tool
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • earplugs
  • Toilet paper
  • Dental floss
  • Imodium
  • Plasters
  • Bandage
  • Disinfectant
  • cloven
  • Thermometer

Miscaleneous:

  • Nite Ize gear ties (to attach solar panel on the bike)
  • Elastic luggage net
  • Bungees
  • Bicycle lock
  • Sunglassess
  • Binoculars: Celestron 8 x 21
  • maps (Hema maps Australia + Reise-Know-How maps Myanmar & Thailand)
  • Book: Birds of Australia (Dean Ingwersen)
  • Pen
  • Waterbladders: 2 x Ortlieb 10L + 1 x Msr 4L
  • 5 Water Bottles
  • Wallet
  • Duct tape
  • Passport + ID card
  • Passport pictures
  • Drivers license
  • Debet cards Maestro
  • Credit cards
  • Small device for ‘Home Banking’
  • Health Insurance cards
  • Rope
  • 5 clothespins
  • Spare shoelaces

 

A New Year, A New Trip, A New Continent: Plans for 2019 – Australia

As I was wrapping up my South-America trip, new travel plans were in my head already and a ticket booked even before I left for my little loop around France last summer.

Destination: the sixth largest country in the world: Australia ! 

With its 7,69 million square kilometers, it is over twice the size of India, which is the seventh largest country in the world.

Apart from a stop-over in Brisbane, I’ve never visited the country before, but we all know it from so many things.

From famous sport events like the Australian Open tennis, the Australian Formula One Grand Prix or the Tour Down under cycling.  From famous television series like Neighbours, Home & Away and the Flying Doctors, from musicians like Kylie Minogue, AC/DC and Crowded House or from top cyclists like Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans and Richie Porte. Or probably the most famous of them all, Crocodile Dundee.

We also know the country from its iconic animals, many of them not to be found anywhere else on the planet; Kangaroos, koalas, wombats, wallabies, dingoes and – maybe my favorite – the thorny dragon.

The country is also home of what might be the worlds most famous oceanic landmark (The Great Barrier Reef), one of the worlds most famous man made buildings (the Sydney Opera House) and probably the worlds most famous mountain (Ayers Rock / Uluru).              
(Put Uluru’s picture in a series of pictures with Mount Everest, K2, Mont Blanc, Aconcagua, Erebus, … People will start to get confused which mountain is which.  Everybody will still recognize the monolith Uluru).

Besides all that, Australia is the driest, inhabited continent and apparently it has the highest concentration of creatures that can kill you: Jellyfish, sharks, crocodiles, snakes, bees, spiders, …
20 of the world’s top 25 deadly snakes live in Australia and some of the most deadly spiders in the world, like the Red Back and Funnel Web call it home as well.

Enough raison to go and explore the place a bit myself 😀 

The size of Australia, projected on a European map.  To cross it west to east equals as going from Ireland to Kazachstan.  North to south would be going from the Lofoten Islands in Norway to the Black Sea Coast in Turkey.
… or on the Usa map.

With a European passport, one can visit Australia on an easily obtained tourist visa, but that allows stays up to three months maximum only.  Not sufficient for the trip I have in mind.
It would be possible to extend that visa once you are in the country, but I want to be sure in advance and don’t want to have headaches over an extension  once I’m there.

I applied for a visitor visa, subclass 600.  You could do this with the help of a visa bureau, but with a little bit of effort, it’s easily done yourself.

Apply online on the website of the ‘Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs’.  You’ve got quite some pages to read, fill out the necessary documents, send a copy of your passport, etc ….

After a couple of days I received a mail back that I had to go for a medical check-up at a medical facility approved by the Australian Government, a choice from three different places in Brussels.
Once the doctor has forwarded all the results back to Australia, you’ll receive your visa, if all is ok.

The application costs around 90 euro (no money back when your visa is denied, I think) and another 60 euro or so for the medical check-up.
They might request evidence that you are financially capable of supporting yourself for such a long trip.

As I said, it requires a little effort, but the whole procedure  seemed ok to me and I can perfectly understand the things they investigated or required to know.

A projection of my home country Belgium on the Australian land mass (that tiny, little pink area in the north-eastern corner).  Australia is 252 times bigger than Belgium, but it only has twice as much inhabitants.  Lucky folks !  🙂 

With a plane ticket and a visa in my pocket, the fun part of preparing the trip could start.  After a holiday (off the bike) in Thailand in January and early February, I will arrive in Melbourne on 8th February 2019.  Not being a big fan of major towns, I booked a ticket on the 9th of February on “The Spirit of Tasmania”, the ferry that will bring me from Melbourne, across the Bass Strait, to Devonport on Tasmania, formerly known as Van Diemen’s Land.

And a projection of Belgium on the map of Tasmania.  Tasmania is roughly twice the size of Belgium (68.400 km2 vs 30.500 km2).  But Belgium is 22 times more populated (11,35 milj. vs 0,51 milj. people)

Being such a huge country, it’s northern part in the tropics, Tasmania a lot closer to Antarctica, a decent planning is a good idea.  I’ll arrive in Tasmania in the second part of summer (southern hemisphere) and will probably stay for a month or so before returning to Melbourne and head slowly north during autumn, arriving in tropical Queensland during the dry and cooler winter months.

The excellent side of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is a good place to start planning.

Below is a map of my planned route in Tasmania (+/- 2.200 km).  Rather then ride along the coast on busy highways, I chose smaller backroads, probably often gravel, but still including some highlights like Cradle Mountain, Lake St.Clair, the National Parks of the southwest, Hobart, Bruny, Maria and Freycinet islands, Ben Lomond National Park, …

I’d love to go to Walls of Jerusalem National Park as well, but I can’t find a good way to include that in the trip (leaving the bike in a secure place).

A planned route of how I will ride north from Melbourne will follow later.