Australia Prt 6, Vic & Nsw: Melbourne to Swan Hill

Route: Melbourne – Diamond Creek – Seymour – Rusworth – Echuca – Barham – Murrabit – Swan Hill

Day 50 & 51: 29 & 30 March 2019
Melbourne

On arrival in Melbourne, I saw another bicycle on board the Spirit Of Tasmania.
Bianca, living literally a stone’s throw away from the ferry landing, had just cycled a tour around Tasmania as well.
We went for a very delicious breakfast together before I went off, getting supplies in the Coles supermarket.

On my ride into the city centre, I was stopped by an older Asian man on an old bike. He introduced himself as ‘Master Tai’, A 76 year old Chinese Man. He had plenty of houses in Melbourne, told me about how he had had a flourishing business in China, but gave everything to his ex-wife.
He came back to Australia, starting from scratch, and in no time had millions of dollars again.
“I like what you do, I can give you millions”
“I can even turn that stone into gold’, he told me.
“Turn my bike into gold”, I said to him, but he couldn’t live up to his claims.
“Next time I see you, I turn you into a millionaire”, he said again.
I thanked him for his kindness and rode on into town, where I wanted to visit some of the outdoor stores before noon time, when I had to be down at the Princess Bridge to meet up with Paul,a cyclist originally from Adelaide, who makes regularly long trips in Europe and has his own website, https://www.ebiketraveller.site.
The plan was to stay one day only, but bad weather on Saturday decided otherwise.

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Yesss, they’ve got one here as well 🙂

On Saturday, a French couple, Philippe and Marie arrived. They had stayed with Paul before, on their arrival in Australia.

It’s a fine neighborhood here, with some trendy café’s and best of all, a big Asian community, mainly Vietnamese it seems, but also Thai and Chinese, with their own shops and restaurants. Yup, a neighborhood I could live.

Day 52: 31 March 2019
From Melbourne to Wild Dog Creek
63,68 km km (Total so far: 1935,84 km) – Altitude climbed: 827 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain

Also today the weather was still cloudy and some rain was predicted in the afternoon. I was so anxious to start my long trip, crossing the Australian continent south to north, that I couldn’t wait another day.
Paul joined me for the first kilometers.
I had made my route along the Yarra River Trail. Not the shortest route to leave town, but it’s car free and mostly along the green river banks so you’re not even realizing you are leaving such a big town.
All locals along the trail were very outgoing and every time I stopped they approached me enquiring where I was going, etc…
After the Yarra Trail, I took the Diamond Creek Trail. From here, the road starts to climb. Not too serious, but you’ll have to work a bit already.

The Great Dividing Range was covered in clouds and it started raining, so that has to wait another day. Barely 17 degrees today.

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Paul (on the right) and the French cyclists.
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Fairfield Pipe Bridge, Yarra Trail, Melbourne
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Red Crimson Rosella, shaking the water from his head
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Great Dividing Range covered in clouds

Day 53: 1 April 2019
From Wild Dog Creek to King Parrot Creek
49,56 km (Total so far: 1985,40 km) – Altitude climbed: 780 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, light tail wind

Steep.
Steep !!
I managed again to chose the steepest way over the range, I think.
That dirt road through the King Lake National Park. I could cycle it, with great efforts, when the gradients were 14 or 15%. Most of the time however, it was steeper and I had to push. Sometimes 18%, after that, I pushed too slow to register the inclination.

Interestingly, I passed some memorials for the big forest fires that raged through this region on 7 February 2009 and killed 14 people in St. Andrews alone, as much as 173 in the whole state of Victoria. The event is now known as Black Saturday.
That day, temperatures were 45,7 °C and winds of 150 km/hr started new fires in instants 20 kilometer away from the previous spot.
The Black Saturday Fires destroyed areas extending some 100 km from west to east.

Today, temperatures were as low as 14 degrees only.

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Very steep climbs into Kinglake National Park
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View back to Melbourne from the Great Dividing Range

At the junction with the paved Whittlesea-Kinglake Road C724, I reached the highest point at 648 meter.
Not impressive, you would think.
Well, try and do it. It was very hard. Luckily, once at the top, finally the sun came out.
Melbourne under a thick layer of clouds at one side, the hinterland bathing in the sun.

There is some sort of unmaintained bike path along the road which keeps me nicely separated from the traffic.
The downhill was very smooth, except from one steeper part, so should be easier coming from the other side.

Today I cycled from ‘Wild Dog Creek’ to ‘King Parrot Creek’.
Sounds nice he 🙂
By the way, yesterday I saw King Parrots. What exceptional beautiful birds.
I also saw many Red Crimson Rosella’s and Eastern Rosella’s.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo’s are everywhere in flocks of 20 or 30 birds making lots of noise.
Fantastic.
Lost my tripod today 😦

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Day 54: 2 April 2019
From King Parrot Creek to Northwood Hill
66,62 km (Total so far: 2052,02 km) – Altitude climbed: 441 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate & strong tail & side wind

Along the King Parrot Creek Road, I cycled towards the Great Victorian Rail Trail, which I left again a bit before its end (or beginning) to cycle via the School House Lane towards Seymour.
There is a huge Vietnam War Memorial at this place. Or American War Memorial, as it would be called by the Vietnamese people.

Cycled out of town, then took Northwood Road. All land is fenced off, found a reasonable place in a bend in the road where the fences were a bit further off.
did I see a Whistling Kite today ?
Not sure, so not ticking it off.

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Great Victorian Rail Trail

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Vietnam (American) War Memorial, Seymour

Day 55: 3 April 2019
From Northwood Hill to 5 km bf Rushworth
59,87 km (Total so far: 2111,89 km) – Altitude climbed: 396 m
Weather: Sunny, light head and side wind

Thanks to careful planning in the months before I left to Australia, I ended up riding a few interesting gravel roads like the Weir Road and the tracks through Whroo Nature Consevation Reserve. I ended up in Rushworth, a little town established in 1853 during the gold rush.
One of the nicest little towns I came through so far.
Well maintained old buildings, all friendly people. I cycled out of town with Damian, a fellow local cyclist.

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Rusworth
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Rusworth

Day 56: 4 April 2019
From 5 km bf Rushworth to Yambuna
60,81 km (Total so far: 2172,70 km) – Altitude climbed: 90 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, moderate head wind

Flies !!
I was warned about them, and read about them in several blogs from other cyclists and today, as I crossed the C345 (Bendigo – Murchison Road) , going north from Rushworth, they were suddenly there. Not a few. Hundreds !
They sit on your back, on your bags, on your wet laundry, circle around you, try to get into your ears, your nose.
The legionair cap I bought in Melbourne, combined with a bandana and good sunglasses that sit close on your face help a lot, but it is super annoying when you stop, or when you want to eat.
They are persistent.
They don’t bite.

I continued riding straight north.
Flat lands here, irrigation channels, cattle, all land fenced off, just like the previous days.
Uninspiring country, but a nice change after all the climbing on Tasmania.
I pitch the tent about six kilometer north of the Murray Valley Highway in the Allan Corry Roadside Reserve.

Day 57: 5 April 2019
From Yambuna to after Moama
42,92 km (Total so far: 2215,62 km) – Altitude climbed: 77 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head wind

On the fifth day of April, around noon time, I reach the borders of the Murray River …

A strong head wind all day, no matter in which direction I turn the handle bars. You have those days.
But it’s a good day.
I should have ridden a few kilometers longer yesterday, because I see some really good camping spots along the Goulburn River, just before its confluence with the Murray River.
I leave the bumpy Glanville Road for the Bangerang Road, staying as close to the river as possible.

In Echuca I find a new Gorilla Pod in the local camera shop. It’s even cheaper as in Europe.
Echuca is a nice place, some older buildings, a McDonalds I visit and a long visit to the library to recharge all the devices.

From Echuca, I cross the Murray River and enter my third Australian state, New South Wales.
I visited the two smallest ones, Tasmania and Victoria already. New South Wales is the most populous, but also the third smallest of the seven. I know this statement is not entirely correct, because you have states, and territories, and there’s also the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory, but these are so small, and to keep things simple, I reckon with seven states, because that’s how it looks at the map.

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The single trail tracks along the Murray River, outside Moama.

The Murray River is hundred meter asl here, still more than a thousand kilometer from its mouth.
That will be some slow moving stream. The Murray is also Australia’s longest river and will be my companion for the coming weeks.

Ten kilometer west of Moama is a forest with mtb trails along the Murray and plenty of goods places to pitch a tent.

Day 58: 6 April 2019
From 10 km passed Moama to Koondrook State Forest
60n18 km (Total so far: 2275,80 km) – Altitude climbed: 60 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind / no wind in the forest

What a brilliant ride today.
I left my pitch along the Murray quite late, too occupied with Thai Airways giving me a hard time returning money of my cancelled tickets, and also trying to decide which tent I should order.

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Camping right between the track and the river, and not a soul in sight.

The first ten kilometer of the day along the asphalted Perricoota Road are nothing special, but once I take a left turn into the Perricoota Forest Road, the fun begins.
Asphalt disappears, washboard for a little while, but then a good hard packed sand road through open farm land.
Once I enter Perricoota State Forest, all fences disappear and it’s a very beautiful ride through the forest. The Murray River is very winding here and always appears and disappears.
Camping is possible everywhere.

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I stop along one of the bends in the river to wash out some clothes and have a swim.
The Perricoota Forest becomes the Koondrook State Forest where, after 2270 km into my ride here, I have my first flat tyre.
I pump it a few times until I find a good spot for the night, and patch the tube after pitching the tent.

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Wobble, wobble, wobble.

Saw two groups of four Emu’s today, running alongside me, crossing my path, joinced by kangaroos. It feels like cycling through Jurrasic Park.
Great day.

Day 59: 7 April 2019
From Koondrook State Forest to Campbells Island State Forest
51,18 km (Total so far: 2326,98 km) – Altitude climbed: 28 m
Weather: Sun, moderate head wind

The joy of cycling along the Murray continues, here on the New South Wales Side.
Before reaching the asphalt and riding into the small town of Barham, I saw one car.
When you see more kangaroos than cars, life is good.

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Two supermarkets in Barham, a ‘Foodworks’ and an ‘Iga’.
I chose the Foodworks, because I’ve never entered one. There’s also a Thai restaurant in town (Happy Elephant Thai – it was closed on a Sunday afternoon) and in the small park I found an electrical outlet to charge the phone and laptop. Two poles of my tent are starting to break. I repaired them but that’s not gonna last, and I don’t want to end up in the desert with a collapsed tent, so I ordered a new one.
I was at the point of ordering a Hilleberg Rogen. The tents are so good and so beautiful, but of course you also pay for what you get.
So I changed my mind, and ordered a cheaper Marmot tent, hoping that will last for the remainder of the Australia trip, and save a new Hilleberg for later, when it can be used in the conditions it was built for.
The Marmot has a full free standing mesh inner tent, which will be cool in the desert, and allow me to watch the stars (or be blinded by the moon when I try to sleep).

Leaving Barham, I stay on the NSW side of the river and after two kilometer or so, I am back on the gravel, entering the Campbells Island state Forest.
Until tomorrow morning, when I write this, I saw zero cars.
A new spot right beside the Little Murray River (the river splits in two for a while, a bit after Barham.)
After Barham I entered the Fruit Exclusion Zone, or Pest Free Zone, I don’t know exactly, but I didn’t see any checkpoint for this.

Day 60: 8 april 2019
From Campbells Island State Forest to 12 km before Swan Hill
62,63 km (Total so far: 2389,61 km) – Altitude climbed: 54 m
Weather: Sun, strong head wind

A battle against the wind, that’s what it was today. All was fine as long as I was on the bumpy gravel road at the New South Wales side of the river but after hitting the asphalt and crossing the Murray it was a full on strong wind in the face.
I filled up the water bottles and bladder in Murrabit, a neat little community on the Victoria side which has made a real effort in putting panels everywhere explaining the historic relevance of the place and its railway.
From Murrabit, I was mostly on asphalt, but still my speed often wasn’t above 10 or 11 km/hr because of this wind.

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But hardly any traffic. I was grateful for the good preparation I’ve put in this whole route.
Part of this reparation, I’ve put waypoints in my gps with possible interesting spots to have a look at.
One of these was Lake Tutchewop. I had imagined to see a lake, but what I got was a South-American style dry salt lake. Very surprised and very happy I battled this extra kilometer against the wind to have a look at it.
Highlight of the day.

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On the edge of the salt lake, Lake Tutchewop

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Or was that this huge Australian Pelican that took off ride beside me when I cycled along an irrigation channel.
This bird was huge and it took him so much effort, flying in big circles, to gain altitude as if it were a large Boeing taking off.
What a magnificent animal.
It has the longest bill of any living bird and has a wing span of 2,3 to 2,6 meter. The record bill size is 50 centimeter.
At least as impressive to see as the Andean Condor.

I camped on Pental Island, a piece of land between the Murray and the Little Murray Rivers, about ten kilometer before Swan Hill, not wanting to enter the ‘big town’ tonight.

More about that, enter re-entering New South Wales where I visit Mungo National Park in the next post.

Australia Prt 5, Tasmania: Freycinet NP to Devonport

Route: Freycinet National Park – Avoca – Evandale – Deloraine – Mount Roland – Devonport

Day 38: 17 March 2019
From Passed Apsley River to few km before Coles Bay
45,87 km (Total so far: 1471,45 km) – Altitude climbed: 745 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head / side / tail wind

Again, what a day !
The highlights keep following up.
I was lucky with the weather again. A bit a cloudy morning but the afternoon and evening were brilliant.
The 25 kilometer from my camp spot to Coles Bay were not the most pleasant due to the busy road and too many impatient drivers.
It’s Sunday, no time to waste, I guess.

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First I headed to the Wineglass Bay Lookout.
After the national park visitor centre, the road has a few short steep inclinations.

It’s about 1,5 hour return walk to the lookout where one has to gain an elevation of about two hundred meter. As always, most of my fellow hikers were not in the best of shape and what keeps surprising me, bad equipped in the shoe department. People hike up in flip flops or the most fragile sandals.
A very high percentage of tourists in Australia is Chinese.
And the Chinese must worry.
They are in a much, much worse shape than the already sad state of my fellow western people.
They struggle and I heard some making noises I haven’t heard from humans before.
Smoke some more cigarettes, guys.

The view towards Wineglass Bay is world famous and rightfully so.
It was worth make the detour only for this.

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Richardsons Bay
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Wineglass Bay

But, there’s more.
After hiking down, I went to Honeymoon Bay. Stunning scenery again, the crystal clear waters and the mountain peaks of ‘The Hazards’ behind that.
The four peaks, Mount Amos, Mount Dove, Mount Baudin and Mount Parsons can be climbed, but it is late afternoon and the weather will turn tomorrow.

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Honeymoon Bay

Returning to my bike from the bay, a Pademelon is sniffing my front panniers.He/she is not shy at all.
That means too many tourists.
I take the Cape Tourville Road towards Sleepy Bay, on the other side of the peninsula.
All worthwhile, all very impressive.
I don’t continue to the Cape Tourville lighthouse, as I really need to go shopping before closing time.
I always carry too much food, but that’s all eaten the last days. The initial plan was to ride via Ross and Campbell town, which I skipped, so I was still surviving on food bought in Triabunna.

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pademelon
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Sleepy Bay

For a moment I hesitated to camp in the national park, along Richardsons Bay. It’s a very beautiful location. On my way back I rode along the side and more then half of them were taken, so that will be too loud.
I returned to no-mans-land a few kilometer outside Coles Bay and baked some burgers in front of my tent.
All good.

Day 39: 18 March 2019
From few km before Coles Bay to near Friendly Beaches
29,31 km (Total so far: 1500,76 km) – Altitude climbed: 213 m
Weather: Cloudy, light head wind

A lame day.
After breakfast I did some long overdue back-up’s of my pictures, then cycled back to Coles Bay to buy groceries for the next days.
In Swanwick, I found a public electricity connection and I had decent enough phone reception to make an update for the website whilst charging all my devices.
The plan to cycle all the way back out to the Tasman Highway and then back to Cranbrook where I will take a dirt road is out of the window for today; too late for that. Unless I could find a small boat that could bring me to the other side (Point Bagot) from where a track leads over the peninsula towards Swansea.
I cycled to the pier but there were no boats whatsoever, not even a small dinghy.
No worries, I’ve got food and water enough for an extra night out.

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Friendly beaches looked pretty wild from the lookout at the top of the dunes. And pretty impressive. Untouched beaches, hopefully they will stay that way.
The national park has basic camping facilities down there (which they will upgrade), and I could see too many campervans for my liking, so I turned back, took another side track and found my own private place, with better wind protection for the night.

Day 40: 19 March 2019
From near Friendly Beaches to 7 km into Old Coach Road C301
35,38 km (Total so far: 1536,14 km) – Altitude climbed: 336 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain

The weather forecast for today was bad. On every website I consulted.
A few overnight showers, but dry when I woke up.
Packed the wet tent and I started cycling. If I would lose another day, I would have to ride to Bicheno for provisions, an additional 24 kilometer return trip on the Tasman highway.
The ride back to that Tasman Highway was no fun. Too many people in too much of a hurry giving too little space to cyclists, despite the frequent signs along the road to give minimum 1,5 meter.
Just after the junction, I went back into the ‘Pondering Frog Café’ for a coffee and a vegetable curry pie before taking on the fifteen kilometer on the Tasman Highway, which I dreaded.
Back over Cherry Tree Hill (185 meter), then coasting down towards the Old Coach Road where the joy could start again.

Miraculously, I saw rain showers all around me, but I kept it dry. The hills in front of me send a clear message. I saw the rain pouring down there, so pitched the tent at not the grandest of wild camping places after a short day in the saddle.

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Good, because a couple of days ago, I purchased Peter Fitzsimons’ book ‘Burke & Wills’ on the Kindle. The cover shows an old picture of Australia’s most famous explorers. It’s a recent book (2018). 736 pages and after 75 pages I must say I love it.
And what a coincidence that, very roughly, the first part of my route on Australia’s mainland is not so different as what these men took. With the same aim, reaching the Gulf of Carpentaria, starting from Melbourne.

I still have to read 1/3 of Herman Brusselmans’ book ‘Hij Schreef te Weinig Boeken’ (639 pages) and am also reading Thomas Stevens’ ‘Around the World on a Bicycle – Volume I, From San Francisco to Teheran’, a 998 pages two volumes book about Thomas Stevens bike ride around the world started in …. 1884 !

That’s alternating between three different colossal works, but I love it.

Day 41: 20 March 2019
From 7 km into Old Coach Road to 1 km into Milford road
64,64 km (Total so far: 1600,78 km) – Altitude climbed: 667 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, strong tail wind

It hasn’t rained hard, but it did continuously until deep in the night which has made the Old Coach Road into sometimes a muddy affair. When I’m around 350 meter asl, I climb into the clouds.
descending from the Coggle Hills towards the settlement of Royal George, the sun reappears above the valley. While riding in the sun with a good tail wind through the St. Paul’s Plains, the Dickies Ridges to my right and the hills of Snow Hill Forest Reserve to my left, remain covered in clouds, a beautiful sight.
Near Royal George, the pavement started again. This is cycling at its best.

In Avoca I face a dilemma. I planned to go straight ahead here via the Storys Creek Road and a loop around Ben Lomond National Park.
But here too, nothing but thick, grey clouds and rain showers.
Or…. I could turn left, follow the Esk Highway in a westerly direction and continue riding in the sun.
I think it over while drinking a coke in the gas station and decide that riding those hills in that kind of weather would not bring me any fun.
So the highway it is.
Out of Avoca, a reasonable shoulder appears, traffic is light, the wind from the side now, it’s a good ride.
After Llewelyn, a one house settlement, I turn right into the Milford Road.
It says again ‘no through road’, but we’ll see tomorrow about that.
The land is unfenced, and although the wind blows still strong, I pitch the tent on the barren hill enjoying a wonderful, sunny evening. Even Ben Lomond shows its face later in the evening.
On the one side of my tent, I have the red sky of the sunset, while on the opposite side, a bright, gigantic full moon is rising from behind Ben Lomond.
Life indeed is very good again.

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Day 42: 21 March 2019
From1 km into Milford Road to 1,5 km into road C521, Woolmers Road
71,61 km (Total so far: 1672,39 km) – Altitude climbed: 437 m
Weather: Sunny, light head wind, heavy rain in the night

Well, this is indeed a ‘no through road’.
Despite my map and my gps suggesting there’s a bridge here over the South Esk River, the track ended up at a private property. The owner said there was no bridge, which I think we can believe as the river is quite wide here and it seemed unlikely to me there would be a private bridge. Maybe google earth can tell more.

Anyways, I had to turn back, continued on the Esk Highway until the junction with the oh so busy Midland Highway, which I crossed, taking the small backroad towards Conara, thus avoiding the Highway. After Conara remains an 800 meter stretch on the highway before I can turn right on the Glen Esk Road (with a bridge over the South Esk River).
So, after cycling 30 kilometer, I was back at exactly 8 kilometer from where I started this morning.
No worries, the weather is fine, and so is the route.
The Nile Road which I’m following now is still partly gravel.
The amount of rotting road kill here is stunning. A death wallaby, possum, kangaroo always within sight, and definitely within smelling distance. Kilometer after kilometer this disgusting smell of rotting, death meat.
Every day, day after day, thousands and thousands of these animals must be killed on Australian roads and… nobody seems to give a f***.
Very bizar.
Very sad.

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Slalom between the roadkill 😦

Evandale is a ‘historical town’.
A few buildings from the late 19th century, two churches, the St. Andrews Uniting Church and the St. Andrews Anglican Church.
More importantly, Evendale is every year the scene of the national Penny Farthing Cycling Championships, the last weekend of February.

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Leaving town, one could pitch his tent in the park along the South Esk River, but I think it might be the scene of drinking and / or fishing men in the evening, so I pushed on finding a spot in a field, about 1,5 kilometer from the Midland Highway.

Dark grey clouds, terrible rain showers in the distance over Ben Lomond and over Evandale.
It eventually came my way and it rained until deep in the night.
Glad I’m not anywhere near en Lomond where it must have been much more serious. Good decision to skip it.

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Day 43: 22 March 2019
From 1,5 km into road C521 to Along the Tasmanian Trail, off Mole Creek Road
81,22 km (Total so far: 1753,61 km) – Altitude climbed: 739 m
Weather: Sunny, cloudy, moderate head & side wind

To my surprise, and contrary to the weather predictions, I wake up to a blue sky. Still uncomfortable about the trespassing into this field, I pack my stuff and decide to have breakfast later on.
First I cross the Macquarie river again, which I still know from further upstream.
To my left, I have beautiful views to the Great Western Tiers and the Cluan Tiers, half covered in clouds.
In Longford, I stop in the beautiful park to eat something, and lay out the tent to dry completely.
Beautiful Church they have here.
The quiet backroads via Bracknell towards Deloraine are a joy to cycle and almost completely deserted of traffic.  Richie Porte, Tasmania’s most famous cyclist, is from this region, I heard, so he must have been roaming this little roads as well.
Late afternoon, upon leaving Deloraine, the impressive Quamby Bluff (1226 m) shows its face.

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Quamby Bluff

I push on, out of town because a bit further I will rejoin the off-road Tasmanian Trail.
Instantly, I have to dismount and push the bike on an impossible incline, some 30% or more on rough stones.
I loaded the bike up with three days worth of food and eleven liter of water, because I want a rest day. Push with all my power, two steps up, brake to hold the bike, puf puf, regain my composure, two steps up, puf puf puf, brake…..
It’s an insane job, but better than the highway.
Soon, I find a place for the tent.

Day 44: 23 March 2019
From Along the Tasmanian Trail to TT, into the Gog Range, along Lobster Rivulet
5,52 km (Total so far: 1759,13) – Altitude climbed: 105 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain

Again a beautiful moonrise yesterday evening and an all dry night, so I could leave the tent fly unzipped and watch the stars. As the weather looked promising, I decided to ride a bit today and make the best of it, instead of taking a rest day.
Pushing ridiculously steep up again for a short stretch, then almost as steep down.
Just when I was crossing the Lobster Rivulet (no bridge), lightning and instantly a very loud thunder and it started raining.

A perfect place to pitch the tent a few meter above the river, so no hesitation. I pitched the tent and that was it for today, 5,52 km.
We’ll see tomorrow.

Day 45: 25 March 2019
From Along Lobster Rivulet to foot of Mount Roland
35,85 km (Total so far: 1794,98 km) – Altitude climbed: 942 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain, strong head wind

Easy going paths brought me to the borders of the Mersey River. It’s a wide stream here, no bridge. Impossible to bring the fully loaded bike over in one go. I offloaded everything and had to bring it all over in four times. So with going and coming back, I crossed the river seven times. Along the banks, the river was thigh high, but the water not too cold.
At the other side is a large flat piece of grass which would be ideal for camping.
However, this could be reached with 4WD, and seeing the remnants of big fires that have been built here, despite the many signs you shouldn’t do so, I don’t know whether this is always such a quiet place as today.

A steepish climb from the Mersey River back up, up to 12% but on good gravel roads, so all can be cycled.
All day, it looks like it could start raining, as the clouds pack together agains the Gog Mountain. The paths here are really heaven to ride and I don’t see another soul.
Further on, I see this whole track system is closed from this side.
Ideal 🙂

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Mount Roland, hidden in the clouds

Back on the pavement follows a very steep climb on the Paradise Road. Normally, I would have views towards Mount Roland, but it’s all covered in clouds.
I decide to go to the start of one of the two tracks nevertheless and hope for better weather tomorrow to climb it.

Day 46: 25 March 2019
From foot of Mount Roland to along Sheffield to Railton Rail Trail
15,63 km (Total so far: 1810,61 km) – Altitude climbed: 674 m
Weather: Heavy rain, very strong tail & side wind

It has rained a lot all night again. After midnight, the wind picked up and became quite heavy, but I was well sheltered in the forest.
Between the showers, I could pack a half dry tent and pushed to bike to the beginning of the trail to Mount Roland. The wind was still very strong, making lots of noise in the trees.

The path climbs up pretty steep, and often you have to clamber over big rocks.
Upon approaching the tree line, it started to rain heavy. I took shelter under a death tree, but even with my rain jacket and a plastic poncho, you cool down quickly when not moving.
I checked the thermometer. 5.0 degrees C.
Waited some more, but the driving rain didn’t stop. Once out of the forest, in combination with the rain and the slippery rocks, this would only be a dangerous situation and I don’t want to jeopardize the rest of my trip by going to this top by all means.

I descended again, and even that proved to be a rather difficult task over the slippery boulders, needing my hands for support often.
Back half way down, the sun came out again.
I stopped. Should I continue going back, or give it another try. The sun was out now, and I won’t be back here all too soon.
Yes, I went back up.
And soon, the clouds were back, the wind picked up.
Ah, forget it, I go back down.
At the bike, the temperature was up to 8.1 degrees C.

On my way between Mount Roland and Sheffield (about 8 km), I had to get of the road and seek shelter once because the winds became so violent it blew me from the middle of the road back into to the side, the driving rain blinded me, then to mountain was covered in clouds again, back blue sky, back covered in clouds.
I’ve been to many places that claim to have four seasons in one day: Scotland, Iceland, Tierra del Fuego, …. but here, they have four seasons in fifteen minutes.
It was clear the mountain didn’t wan anybody up there today, so you better listen then.

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Mount Roland, 20 minutes after I left it when it was covered in clouds and rain.
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Again Mount Roland, 10 minutes after the previous picture.

I had lunch in Sheffield. Chinese, cashew nut chicken and curry beef with fried rice.
The sun was out when I mounted my bike, but 1,5 kilometer further, I was cycling back in the rain.

Pitched the tent along the rail trail to Railton, with some good wind shelter from the trees.
But it was cold, God…. so cold.
Temperatures dropped a lot today.
For the first time since arriving in Australia, I use the sleeping bag as a bag and not merely as a blanket. And in my bag, it was comfortably warm.

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Day 47: 26 March 2019
From Along Sheffield to Railton Rail Trail to Devonport
30,85 km (Total so far: 1841,46 km) – Altitude climbed: 211 m
Weather: Cloudy, strong head and side wind

Continuing along the rail trail, I was surprised, and disappointed to see so much illegal dumping of garbage.
In Railton, I stopped at the place were Norman Sykes used to live.

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The road from Railton to Latrobe is terrible with more than a few idiots on the road.
From Latrobe to Devonport, I took the River Road along the Mersey River, which was good.
I was again warmly welcomed in Hans and Claudia’s house in Devonport, where I stayed for two nights, having some interesting discussions about future plans with Hans.

Day 48: 27 March 2019
Devonport
Weather: Sunny

Today we drove with the car to Narawntapu National Park where we made a beautiful walk. There’s a lake with a wide variety of birds. The park is dubbed the Serengeti of Tasmania, I read later. And indeed, it feels as if you are watching a typical African safari landscape, although you are here, along the Bass Strait in the roaring 40’s.

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We returned to the car via an almost deserted Baker Beach.
In Europe, there would be 50.000 people on this beach.

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Day 49: 28 March 2019
Ferry from Devonport to Melbourne
Weather: Sunny

After spending another lovely, relaxing day, a haircut and a very good meal, I cycled to the ferry terminal to catch the Spirit of Tasmania. Again the nbr 1 (they’ve got 2).

Some figures about the Australia trip so far:
Total distance cycled on Tasmania: 1846,36 km
Average km per cycling day: 43,96 km
Total altimeter: 25.798 meter

Shortest cycling day: 5,52 km (Gog Range)
Longest cycling day: 81,22 km (northeast Tasmania)
Highest maximum speed: 69,75 km/hr (on Cradle Mountain Development Road)

Most altimeter in one day: 1167 m (towards Cradle Mountain)
Highest point: 959 m (on Cradle Mountain Development Road)
Longest day in the saddle: 6 hrs 23 minutes (Eastern Tears Forest Reserve, Tasmania)
Total time in the saddle: 142 hours 57 minutes

Nights slept inside: 4
Nights slept outside: 43 (of which 38 wild camping & 5 on campgrounds)

Flat tires: 0 (thank you Schwalbe for the Marathon Mondials !)
Other gear issues: punctured Therm-A-rest NeoAir
Number of road kill: estimated 20.000 (that’s if there would be on average only 1 dead animal every 100 meter)

Below, the map from my route on Tasmania, cycled anti-clockwise.
The gpx track can be downloaded from Wikiloc.

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.
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 ?

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What were they thinking ??

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.”

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The Tasman Bridge over the Derwent River, Mount Wellington in the background.

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.

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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.

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The corner of Seven Mile Beach

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.

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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
Wattle Hill
Rest Day
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.

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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.
Good.
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.

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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.

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The cliffs near Spring Beach

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

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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.

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The fast ferry to Maria Island.
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Australia’s maritime flag is red i.o. blue.

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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.

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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.

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Wombat. Those on Maria Island have longer hair and are a bit lighter in color as their family on the main land.
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Mount Maria in the background.

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.

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Bennett Wallaby
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Tasmania’s main land in the background

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.
Wrong decision.
The beach is several kilometer long and it was very hard work to push the heavy bike over it.

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Pushing the bike along the McRaies Isthmus

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.

Isthmus
I didn’t climb Mount Maria to have a view of the isthmus, so this is a picture I took from the internet from the discover Tasmania website, just to give you an idea.

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.

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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
Weather: Sunny

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.

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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.

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Bishop and Clerk Hill.
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Lunch break with a view to Schouten Island (not in the picture)

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I completed the loop back towards Darlington and rode back to the painted cliffs in full sunshine now.

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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.
Good.
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 😉

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Maria Island in the background

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.

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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.

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Some people call this ‘nothing’. Me; I like nothing 😀

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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.
Very hard.
The inclinations are steep, 12, 13% on the gravel.
Steep down and up.
And down.

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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.

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The further you proceed on the Honey Suckle Road, the rougher it gets.

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.
A lot.

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.
Nothing happened.

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I haven’t said anything about this nasty little creatures. These small ants are everywhere. STINKY ANTS !! I read about them before and could never believe how ants could smell so bad. Surely, it was exaggerated. Until you meet them. From the moment you touch them, brush them off you, or kill them, they release this terrible stench.

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.

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‘Inside’ the Macquarie River. you can see the remnants of the old bridge.

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.

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View of Moulting Lagoon and the hills of Freycinet National Park behind it.

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Next post, all about Freycinet National Park !

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.