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.
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.
We had a nice chat and a tasty dinner and a night rest indoors.
Day 29: 8 March 2019
From Hobart to Wattle Hill
58,54 km (Total so far: 1092,76 km) – Altitude climbed: 632 m
Weather: Sunny, cloudy, medium tail & side wind
My initial route for leaving Hobart was via the Bowen Bridge towards Richmond, avoiding the busy A3 Tasman Highway. After discussing this with Mykal yesterday, I changed my mind. He pointed out that my preferred option would still be a rather busy road, no shoulder and winding through the hills.
Instead, I crossed the Derwent River via the Tasman Highway Bridge. This bridge has a very narrow side track, separated from the traffic for pedestrians and cyclists. The high winds, and the climb up the bridge didn’t make it easier. Why can’t they make this lane 50 centimeter wider ?
Would the bridge then become unaffordable ?
Once on the other side, it all becomes good though.
A bike path skirting the seaside. Brilliant views back to Hobart, the northern tip of Bruny Island where I was cycling a couple of days ago and to the peninsula south of Lauderdale.
Via Garmin Basecamp I created a track yesterday evening that turned out to be excellent.
In Bellerive I learned from a sign the big Tasman bridge collapsed in 1975. Several people died. A local who was walking his dog told me a ship crashed into the bridge.
I got to talk to another Tasmanian in front of the big Eastlands Shopping Centre and have an invitation for a stopover in case I would pass his house further on the East Coast.
I explained to him I was planning to take the C301 road towards Avoca.”That’s a very rough dirt road”, he said. He looked me deep in the eyes, “you surely don’t want to ride that kind of road on your bike, do you ?”
“That’s exactly what I want”, I thought, but obediently, I lowered my eyes and answered “No Sir.”
From a sign along the bike path, I learn Charles Darwin was here as well, I think it was 1835.
Leaving Bellerive and Kangaroo Bay the bike path meanders along the coast.
In the grass next to the bike path I spot a couple of Galahs. This Grey and red cockatoos with a small white cap on their head are one of the most widespread Australian birds.
From Howrah I cut through the small park towards the bike path along the B33 Rokeby Road. Less scenic, traffic noise, but an excellent, separate bike path. After Rokeby follows the only bad stretch, a few kilometer on the busy B33 and later the C330 Acton Road. After about three kilometer on this C330 I spot a sandy hiking / mtb trail going left towards Acton Park. I take this one. It makes a few steeper inclines, but I’m alone, in the nature, no cars, so all is perfect.
Some more sandy bike paths and I arrive at Seven Mile Beach which is almost deserted. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach where I take a small rest and eat a snack.
My route continues via the back side of the airport on a road that’s blocked for cars. Airport on one side, the dunes and the beach on the other side.
Eventually I have to go back towards the Tasman Highway. Exact one kilometer on a good shoulder, then there is again a separate bike path to cross the Pitt Water. After Midway Point, the bike path is at the other side of the bridge.
Sorell is a busy town at the junction of the A3 and A9 highways. Tony, a cyclist from Lauderdale stops me to have a chat. The sky is getting more and more grey and after a Big Mac Meal in the Mac Donalds (sorry), I hurry into the hills.
I had two options after Sorrel: one along the coast via Dodges Ferry, but that option required a longer stretch along the super busy A9, and I didn’t know how much of that traffic would choose the coastal option. So one kilometer after Sorell, I took the option into the hills towards Nugent.
All land seemed to be fenced for sheep farming.
At Wattle Hill I saw an open fence, a hill, some trees and more open land. Perfect place for the night.
Day 30: 9 March 2019
Weather: Cloudy, light rain
A cloudy day, drizzle, rain, some dry periods.
Didn’t feel like riding in that so stayed in the tent, reading and sleeping.
Made a pasta with mushrooms, onions, peppers and tomatoes.
Day 31: 10 March 2019
From Wattle Hill to Spring Beach
47,08 km (Total so far: 1139,84 km) – Altitude climbed: 1079 m
Weather: Sunny, cloudy, medium head wind
Almost immediately the paved road turns into gravel and would stay like that for most of the day. Some steeper inclines are sealed for a few hundred meters.
The first hill goes to an altitude of 375 meters, sometimes up to 11 or 12%. In Nugent I have the choice to take the C335 towards Kellervie, or the Mill Road.
I’m not sure whether the latter will cut through all the way towards the Wielangta Road. The Garmin map shows a thin red line, which is often over private land.
I stop a car in Nugent and the lady tells me there’s a boom gate, but I should be able to cross through the forest.
A sign at the beginning of Mill Road claims it’s a ‘no through road’, but I trust the lady’s advise and continue.
There’s a steep descent into the next valley, so I hope I don’t have to retrace my steps later on.
At the border of the Wielangta Forest is indeed a (closed) beam, which I can pass easily.
Behind the beam a soft tracks, sometimes on the muddy side from yesterdays rain.
No recent tracks.
Time for a Podcast.
Episode 37, ‘Tango d’Amore’ from the brilliant ‘Mij Gedacht’ Podcast.
A three hour episode.
The track becomes stony at times, steep, up to 14%.
Pushing the bike.
No worries, I’m on a deserted track, laughing out loud regularly with the podcast and although progress is slow, I’m having a blast.
At the Wielangta Road there’s some traffic but not much.
I turn right towards Rheban with its beautiful beach. About ten people here during this long weekend.
I consider pitching the tent at the far end of the beach but decide against it. I want to be on an early boat towards Maria Island tomorrow.
I end up pitching the tent at some land that’s for sale with some roughly cleared tracks. Mosquito infested.
Just after finishing my curry-couscous with broccoli, peppers, carrots and onions, it starts raining.
Good, I love the sound of light rain on the tent to fall asleep.
Day 32: 11 March 2019
From Spring Beach to Encampment Cove, Maria Island
29,56 km (Total so far: 1169,40 km) – Altitude climbed: 325 m
Weather: Sunny, medium head & tail wind
I first stopped at the sanitary buildings in Spring Beach to wash out yesterdays cycling clothes.
No shops in Spring Beach but Orford, a bit further on had an Iga supermarket.
From Orford I had to cycle seven kilometer on the Tasman Highway. It’s beyond my comprehension some people cycle this way all around the east coast. Way too much traffic to be any fun.
Triabunna is the village from where the ferry to Maria Island leaves.
Maria Island used to be a convict center back in the 19th century.
The whole island is national park now. I have the national park pass, but there’s still a hefty fee to get to the island. 75 Dollar in my case (45 for me, 10 for the bike and 20 for the luggage).
For that amount, you can travel 12,5 times to Bruny Island.
It’s just a half our passage with the fast boat crossing the Mercury Passage to Darlington, the old convict centre on Maria Island.
It was busy with people (last day of the long weekend), so I’ll visit this convict probation station from 1825 on my way back.
From the crystal blue waters of Darlington bay, I cycled over the small hill, passing the Ruby Hunts Cottage towards Hopeground Beach, again with this bright azur blue waters.
Due to the high tide, there wasn’t much to see of the painted cliffs.
Maria Island is an almost car free island. Just a few cars from the park rangers ride around. The dirt track stays close to the coast with spectacular views towards the Mercury Passage and Tasmania’s mainland behind.
A sandy track leads to Return Point, definitely worth the visit and, again, a nice beach (no people) and clear waters.
I pitch the tent at encampment Cove.
The place is teaming with wombats, a few kangaroos and at night way too many possums that try to eat through my panniers (those without food inside). So I take everything in the tent but it becomes an almost sleeples night as they keep hanging around the tent.
I also hear a few Tasmanian Devils in the bushes behind my tent.
Day 33: 12 March 2019
From Encampment Cove to French’s Farm (Maria Island)
20,64 km (Total so far: 1190,04 km) – Altitude climbed: 189 m
Weather: Sunny, in the evening heavy storm with rain and hail
The day started a bit rainy but by 10 o’clock the sun came out. I first made the loop towards Point Lesueur and the convict houses. Very tiny, windowless structures at a stunning location.
Like Bruny Island, Maria Island has its isthmus, the McRaies Isthmus, with on one side Shoal Bay and the other side Riedle Bay.
Unlike Bruny Island, there’s no sealed road on the isthmus.
I read it is forbidden to push or ride your bike over the beach, but a girl and a couple said the park ranger recommended them to take the beach, because the sand was hard packed.
I followed them.
The beach is several kilometer long and it was very hard work to push the heavy bike over it.
At the end I had to choose, going to Robeys Farm, or to Haunted Bay.
I choose Robeys Farm (the easier of the two).
It’s nothing special and I recommend just visiting the beaches of the isthmus, or maybe go to Haunted Bay (where you can maybe see seals ??).
On the way back, I took the sandy track over the isthmus, which is still unrideable in many places, but much easier than the beach.
After the misery with the possums last night, I pitched my tent at the old French’s Farm tonight. Right behind the old farm house, so I was protected for the wind which was predicted to be at a force 9 again tonight.
That turned out to be only for half an hour, but with very hard rain and a lot of hail.
All without damage to the tent.
With all the pushing over the beach and the sandy track, I can proudly say my average speed of today was 6,58 km/hr.
Day 34: 13 March 2019
From Frenchman’s Camp, Maria Island to Triabunna
22,00 km (Total so far: 1212,04 km) – Altitude climbed: 373 m
From the isthmus back to Darlington, one can choose between the ‘inland route’ and the ‘coastal route’. I took the coastal route again. Hardly any people this time around near the painted cliffs. They are magnificent, but would be even better when the sun would be at it, so I would return later in the day.
Thus, rode further on to Darlington where I took a right turn and the short ride through Brickfields Valley towards Fossil Bay. The views to the cliffs and ‘Bishop and Clerk’, the islands’ second highest mountain are very beautiful.
From the Fossil Cliffs, it’s down towards the ‘Fossil Quarry’, a place where they used to dig to make cement.
Over here, you don’t have to search for fossils between the rocks, but literally you have to search for rock between the fossils. Millions of years old, all on top of each other.
I completed the loop back towards Darlington and rode back to the painted cliffs in full sunshine now.
I had a chat with one of the park rangers, who discouraged me of riding via the small roads to Ross in the next days. “It’s all gravel roads and nothing to see there. And dangerous because there are no signposts on these roads and you could get lost and….”
He also had interesting things to tell me, about the Tasmanian Devil program. They brought 15 or 16 healthy devils to the island and they seem to do well. They eat possums.
This population can save the species of extinction on Tasmania, where most of the animals suffer from the facial tumors, and if not they get killed by cars.
I asked whether there are snakes on Maria Island, and apparently they have three kinds. The most common being the Tiger Snake, which I have seen several times in Tasmania and also on Bruny Island.
A quick further investigation of the buildings of Darlington, and than the 5 o’clock boat back to Triabunna, where one can camp behind the hotel, provided you donate a gold coin which is used to support the local firefighters or another cause, and have a beer in the bar.
I had two beers, but stayed one night only nevertheless. Alarms going off three times at night, loud people, slamming doors and trunks, squeezed between camper vans and having to pitch the tent on a field of brown grass (urine, urine, urine)…. it all doesn’t make me too happy.
Back to ‘the wild’ tomorrow.
Whilst in the pub, I booked my return journey from Devonport to Melbourne. On 28 March I will sail with the night boat. That means I have to hurry up a bit, because there’s still quite a long way to ride and I want to fit in Freycinet National Park
Day 35: 14 March 2019
From Triabunna to Murderers Tier
70,81 km (Total so far: 1282,85 km) – Altitude climbed: 1000 m
Weather: Sunny, Medium head wind
Although I don’t like to stay in these kind of places where I camped last night, my neighbors were too kind to me.
From a Dutch family I got a big cone bag (puntzak) of fries and some mayonnaise they brought from home (is that allowed ??).
This morning, my German neighbors invited me for a coffee and a nice chat.
That, combined with re-arranging my bags, packing, shopping, charging my telephone in the tourist info, resulted in a late start.
And I have this intention to ride bigger distances to make it in time to Devonport.
The lady in the tourist information advised against taking my planned route for three reasons:
– I may get lost ‘in there’.
– It could be dangerous
– There’s nothing to see out there
But I stubbornly do what I want 😉
I have to ride 25 kilometer back towards Buckland over the Tasman Highway.
It is terrible.
Four times I have cars or camper vans coming really close to me.
Another time a car passes me while a small truck was coming from the other side (the famous three seconds they don’t have to spare to slow down). The truck has to go so far to the side he touches the metal barriers next to the Ross River, he starts swaying left to ride.. all ends well (except for his damage).
Twenty five nerve wrecking kilometer later, I’m in Buckland.
A ‘historical’ church (not historical for European standards), a roadhouse and a park where I wash a shirt and have lunch. I’m joined by another cyclist who called it a day already and pitched his tent behind the pub.
It’s been five years he’s cycling Tasmania already, every time for five months, but he doesn’t seem to leave the highways too much it seems.
My good times begin in Buckland again.
The road is still sealed for the first fifteen kilometer or so.
Maybe five cars pass me, instead of the 250 cars per hour on the highway. The road climbs steadily into the Driscolls Hills. Sometimes a bit steeper, but mostly gently.
After the road turns into gravel, all traffic disappears and I would see less than a handfull of cars in the next hours.
I planned to follow the C318 towards Whitefoord, but the Tin Pot Marsh Road, which is cutting about fifteen kilometer from the route, is good enough, so I follow that one along the Sawpit Tier hills towards Stonehenge.
I sometimes ride through forest, but most of the times it’s fields with sheep. All land is fanatically fenced of end I end up pitching my tent in front of the gate of one of the fields.
No cars pass anymore today.
It does cool down, to 4 degrees over night.
Good temperature to sleep 🙂
Day 36: 15 March 2019
From near Murderers Tiers to 20 km into Honey Suckle Road
65,22 km (Total so far: 1348,07 km) – Altitude climbed: 1202 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate wind from all directions
Apartheid rules in Tasmania !
Today, I saw fields with strict separation.
Fields with exclusively brown cows, other fields with exclusively black cows.
And there’s not only separation based on colors, also on the sexes.
On different occasions, I saw fields with only rams.
My cycling day was fan-tas-tic !
Riding along the good Lemon gravels road towards Stonehouse Road. No traffic, fields with brownish grass, large death trees, forrest, steep hills, moderate hills.
But I’m a bit restless.
Still suffering from the trauma of entering Hobart on that busy road, I have visions that the whole of Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest town, will travel tomorrow Saturday via the B34 road towards the coast.
I first stop at the junction towards Tooms Lake.
My paper map shows a connection all the way through the Eastern Tiers Forest Reserve towards Lake Leake, where I would join the B34 but from where it would be almost all downhill to the coast.
But after inspecting my ‘Open MTB Map’ on the Garmin and the map Garmin supplies with the inReach app ‘Earthmate’, they both show no connection after the lake.
I sit down and wait half an hour for a car to come by, so I can ask.
Nobody comes 🙂
I decide to be wise and continue on my intended route towards Ross.
Soon though, a van approaches from the other side and he stops. The guy has a house close to the lake and says in theory there is a track, but very, very rough with big stones, etc..
He can recommend the other track, some sixteen kilometer down the road I saw on my map.
It would be a longer stretch, but bring me eventually to Lake Leak as well, and avoiding the busy roads.
In good spirits I continue.
Soon after the Tooms Lake junction, the fences along the road disappear and I arrive in wild camping heaven. The scenery is top. The red dirt track, brown fields, green forests, grey death trees, blue sky.
Just before the bridge over the Macquarie River, I stop at a farm to have the route confirmed and take some extra water.
At the bridge, I wash my socks, bandanas and my hair in the river.
At the junction of the Tooms Lake Road and the Honey Suckle Road is a sign stating it’s a ‘no through road’, but I ignore it.
Another farmer on his quad stops and also confirms I can reach Lake Leak by this way, but it will be hard.
He also says there are quite a lot of ‘mad guys with guns’ further on, hunting for deer.
I hate hunters.
“So I have to choose between the mad guys on the road and the mad guys in the bush ?”, I ask him.
“Take this track”, he says, “that will be better”.
He understood me.
From here, Life starts te be hard.
The inclinations are steep, 12, 13% on the gravel.
Steep down and up.
More good wilde camping to be had.
I push on until 6 pm.
Just when I start to search for a spot, another pick up truck approaches me.
He stops as well.
I guess they don’t see too many people on pushbikes here if they all stop haha.
He just wanted to make sure I was fine and also confirms I will eventually end up at Lake Leak.
Twenty kilometer into Honey Suckle Road, I pith the tent on hill a bit off the road.
It seems to be all dense forest from here, so camping might become harder if I push on further.
32 km left, with the hardest part still to come before I reach the main road again.
Best song of the day on the music player: Ryan Paris: Dolce Vita
Day 37: 16 March 2019
From 20 km along Honey Suckle Road to just passed Apsley River
77,51 km (Total so far: ) – Altitude climbed: 1.097 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head winds
Within the first kilometers of my ride today, the signs started to appear.
‘Keep out !’, ‘No Entry !’, signs they were hunting and shooting.
I heard them shooting.
I rang my bell and continued cycling, hoping the signs were meant for the land next to the road, and not for the road itself.
By ringing the bell, I could make clear to the hunters I was a cyclist and not a dear in a red shirt.
Although I doubt my bell makes enough noise to reach that far.
To be on the safe side, I stopped listening to my podcast with Sven De Ridder and have all attention on what happened around me.
There were also the ‘good guys’, with signs along the property to ‘Keep Out !’ and ‘No Hunting’ and ‘No shooting’.
It seems to me the guys on the left side of the road were the crazy guys, those on the right side the good guys.
A large tree blocked the road.
That first guy who told me yesterday this route was good and he had ridden it a few weeks ago seemed to tell me bullshit. This tree was laying here since a long time.
I pushed the bike around and continued on an obviously unused track since long time.
Big stones, wires and a pile of sand blocked the track further on.
This is where the collapsed bridge over the Macquarie River is.
I first went down on foot to check the situation and see what could be done. Having to go back all the way would be disaster.
But all was fine. I must be really close to the spring of the river as there was hardly any water.
But if you see how high that bridge used to be over the river and still it’s washed out, that means it must be torrential at times.
A steep push over loose gravel and rocks to get out over the river bed.
A bit further on, I reach the McKai Road, a much better track.
Those who want to avoid the highway, but want an easier option then the Honey Suckle Road:
Follow my route until after the Stonehouse (on Stonehouse Road C306).
About two kilometer before the junction to Tooms Lake, another track veers off to the right. No signpost there, but that is the same track as the one I ended up after crossing to Macquarie River.
It will be much shorter and much easier, but you will miss the fantastic scenery from the Tooms Lake junction to the bridge over the Macquarie River, and the first section of the Honey Suckle Road.
I continued on, reaching a high point at 697 meter near the junction with the Lake Leake Road (B34).
Back on asphalt I quickly coasted down to the coast.
Against strong head wind.
Just when I took the 90 degree left turn onto the Tasman Highway, I met a British couple on bicycles, making a loop around the island over the highway.
Despite my 90 degree turn, the wind blew still straight in the face.
Just before the turn off towards Freycinet National Park, I stopped for a small bite and a coke at ‘The Pondering Frog Café’.
Very friendly people, excellent vegetable curry pie and I filled the water bottles.
I found a good place to camp a bit further on along the Coles Bay Road.
Lot’s of mosquito’s.
Next post, all about Freycinet National Park !