Fatbiking the East Coast of Tasmania: Ride Journal
Continued from here
Food. 8 meals a day and sustained weight loss is the amusing reality of touring on heavy bikes. So this instalment finds us sitting in the sand on a nameless beach on the North East tip of Tasmania eating lunch. The good news is the more food you eat, the lighter your bike gets. So we were aiming for exaggerated bike weight reduction.
There is only so much weight you can trim before you have to ride again. So we jumped on the bike, found the wind was mostly at our tail and put it in the big ring and revelled in not being in a boat any longer. We were smashing along at like 25kph as the coastline meandered seemingly in every direction on the compass. There were amazing bays with cray boats anchored in the lee of the wind, birds everywhere along the coastline and us floating along with the sand in the breeze.
We were able to sneak through some rocky points and then hit one that was impassable. Sigh, not this crap again. Looking around, we spotted an old tyre hanging on a star picket in what appeared to be a dried creek bed. Our spider sense was tingling – it clearly warranted investigation. Low and behold – it was single track! I double checked the GPS and it was what i had mapped from my google map file so we had reason to believe it would actually take us where we wanted to go. So we followed a series of orange arrows to keep us on track as we wound our way behind the headland. I can’t tell you how stoked i was to be riding single track. As far as single track goes, it was kinda scratchy and not likely to appear in ‘flow’ magazine anytime in their upcoming Tasmania special, but it was special to me and I was hooting and carrying on like a turkey.
We wound around the headland and back to the beach. Avid bb7 brakes that have been soaked in saltwater for the better part of the week only do one thing. Scream. Like a banshee. They don’t actually slow you down, they just make an unholy noise and we were making the most of their potential. We screamed our way out of the single track and onto the beach and find a dozen hikers staring wide eyed at us sheltering from the breeze behind some rocks. Awkward….
Now i had barely spoken to anyone but Timmy for the last week, so I was on for a chat. So i headed over still glowing from getting to ride 1 km of single track and was genuinely stoked to see people out enjoying the coastline. They were part of a guided group and we chatted for a bit before the guide came over and offered us some water. He had a half full pack tap that he didn’t need and couldn’t bring himself to throw the water away after carrying it so far. We didn’t really need the water, but we could empathise so we took it and then he offered us a chocolate handup. Oh yeah. You can’t turn down a chocolate handup. Ever.
So we bid them farewell and kicked on for a while. There was a campsite we stumbled across at Deep Creek which seemed to offer us some shelter from the wind which was really howling. Since we had made such good time across the North Coast, we really didn’t need to ride too much more for the day so we elected to pull up for the night. It was even appointed with a table and chairs – luxury.
The next morning we had some panoo decisions to make: Paddle across the spit and continue along the coast, or ride through Ansons Bay and fabricate a go-around to get us back to the coast. Path of least resistance…. we took the go-around. We hit up a fire trail that led us around the bay and then we had a long descent back to the start of the Bay of Fires. Mostly because we thought there might have been a general store we could swing past, there’s nothing in Ansons Bay.
We skipped the main road and picked up a fire-road which was actually signposted that it ran through to St Helens which was our next stop, so at the end of a long climb, we turned off and descended all the way back down to the beach. I was reluctant to give up the hardwon altitude and we joked about how shit it would be if we discovered the beach was unrideable and we had to double back – we shouldn’t have joked about it.
We cruised past the inlet for Ansons Bay and made it about 2 or 3 km’s along a fairly soft beach (it was high tide so we couldn’t expect much else) before finding another impassable headland. After the panoo epic from the day before, we weren’t really in the mood for another 2 hour sufferfest and satellite view was indicating there would be more where that came from. So we gave up and had to climb the hill again, it wasn’t like there were rules that said we HAD to ride on the beach at all costs. We bumped into another cyclist/hiker who was keen in checking out our setup as they were in the process of figuring out a touring setup. So we chatted for 20 minutes or so while we put road pressures back in the tyres and inhaled some Kit Kats.
As luck would have it , the firetrail climb back out of the bay turned into fireroad that went all the way through to St Helens and i was pretty stoked on it. There were a few cars, but nothing like riding the highway, and it shortcut quite a bit of distance off our go-around. I was digging it, even if the washboards started to get a bit ridiculous by the end. The cyclist/hiker we were chatting to came past in a 4×4 later on and we had a chat through the passengers window about 30k’s down the road, she was pretty impressed with the time we were making even if it felt to us like we were just riding in circles.
Before we knew it, we were in St Helens and were nearly the cause of a head on accident as a car gave us a wide berth as they passed us at the exact same moment that as someone pulled out of a side street and became oncoming traffic. All i could do was cringe and wait for the crunch that thankfully never came.
We found a bikeshop in St Helens and decided that while Timmy’s ‘QR’ was holding the front wheel on well enough, a replacement wouldn’t be a bad idea. So we went into the shop and discovered we were in the land of bolt up front wheels. Thankfully the owner rustled around out the back for a while and eventually found a QR off an old clunker that was laying around and got us going. He didn’t even charge us for it since he was so stoked to see fatties being ridden. We asked for directions to the pub and went off in search of a beer and schnitzel and to hide out of the midday sun.
Probably the most shocking incident in the history of bikepacking happened at the public toilets/showers as we filled some bottles. A rather lithe and attractive read headed lass sauntered past while Timmy was fishing around in his frame bag for another Kit Kat. She meandered over and said “Geez i like your tyres” and flashed him a smile. Tim, thinking all his christmases had come at once looked up just in time to catch a glimpse of a mouth completely filled with black rotten teeth. Now i was about 25 meters away and I caught sight of the chompers and i was disturbed. Tim on the other hand was as white as a sheet and had nightmares for a week. Amusingly enough, the next town down the coast was called Falmouth, which phonetically sounds enough like foul mouth to make me laugh for the rest of the day.
Next stop – Scamander. We followed a little cycleway around the bay at St Helens and then mixed with traffic along the main road until we could hit the beach. It was pretty damn hot and we’d already done 70 odd k’s, the beach was postcard perfect. Clear water, offshore winds and fun little 1-2 foot swell peeling through. We were straight in and catching waves in minutes. I was assaulted by a crab which took a disliking to my feet and we chatted to a guy wandering the beach combing the flotsam to get some tips on what the next sections of beach looked like.
So how was my radioactive leg looking by this point? Truly awful, that’s how. Clearly i had done a lot of damage to it and even as i type this 2 or 3 weeks later, it is still pink. Don’t mess with the Tassie sun
We rode some more beach, hit the road for a bit more, performed a token lap of four mile beach and then continued along the road with the goal of hitting the campsite at chain of lagoons for the evening. We totally blew by a section i had previously mapped that would get us on dirt and save spending so much time on sealed roads. But one look at the hills it passed through was enough for us to say screw that.
We were seriously tempted to stop at the ironhouse brewing company, but by now i think it was something like day 4 without a shower and we needed to be strategically downwind of people to avoid sharing our homeless aroma. We didn’t think they would take kindly to our types in such a fine looking establishment.
Chain of lagoons had a cool little campsite and we settled in for the evening with about 90-100 k’s done for the day. Tim had been having difficulties with the Rohloff skipping and clunking under load all day. To the point in the afternoon where it was just about un-useable. Given the degree of submarine work that hub has done in its life, we had grave fears for what was going on inside the black box of Germanic mystery. That evening Tim noted his chain tension was getting floppy so he adjusted the tug nuts and the next morning found the hub working perfectly. We didn’t look very hard at it but were puzzled how chain tension would make and IGH work properly. When we actually pulled the bike apart to fly home – the mystery was solved the rear cog was basically gone. I’m surprised it was rideable at all!
The following morning saw us hit the beach at chain of lagoons. It was shit. The tide was wrong and it wasn’t long before we were consulting internet devices to try and figure out whether there was any point riding it or whether we were going to be snaked by private property again. From where we were standing on the beach, it looked very ‘farmy’ in the distance and the call was soon made to abort and head back to the road. In the end it appears to have been the correct call as the exit road we had intended to use was indeed private property and we would have wound up having to paddle around a headland to avoid tresspassing again.
From there, it wasn’t much point leaving the A3 again – so we just smashed it into Bicheno. We were nearly cleaned up by a dickhead driver from WA who steadfastly refused to move out of their lane despite having over a kilometers visibility on a straight road and no oncoming traffic.<begin rant> It was completely unnecessary and it is probably a good thing for my clean criminal record that i didn’t encounter them again at any point as I was carrying a mushroom cloud of rage with me that had their name all over it. Tassie local drivers for the best part were unreal. Like, seriously good. Patient, give heaps of room, give you a wave. It was the fucking dickhead tourists that spoilt the party. <end rant>
Bicheno saw us linger over second breakfast for like 2 hours. Most of that time was spent with me swearing at the worst phone in human history as i tried to get it onto the wifi. We elected to go check out the beach and i waded in but the water temp had dropped again deep into the uncomfortable zone so i didn’t stay in long. The only incentive was that the freezing water was more enojyable than the thought of more road k’s. However we had to suck it up and keep churning along the A3 until we hit the turnoff to Freycinet.
We stopped and looked at the map and formulated a plan to ride the main road, turn off near the airport and pick up Friendly beach. Somebody had annotated the map to include a new reference point of ‘sex legend’ about 500m out to sea at Friendly beach, so we figured we should probably go check that out too. Upon arrival -no sex legends were found.
The beach itself, well…. high tide. Crystal white sand with aquamarine water was stunning, but sinking rim deep in the sand wasn’t so much. We crawled along in the now peak heat of the day, hit the headland on the other end and then i had to sit down and have a Kit-Kat.
From there , the firetrail we picked up got quite uppity. It was freaking rad, but it was uppity. So i started pulling off layers until i didn’t have any more to remove as we climbed and climbed and I was in a complete lather. Finally we topped out and the call was made to head to coles bay and see if we could locate so refreshments.
A small cafe had a sign up that it was licenced. It had a stunning view out over the bay and mountains, so we ordered a beer and pondered what to do next. The pondering took quite some time evidentally as 5 hours later and about 8 beers later we were smashing wood fired pizzas and chatting to the waitress about where we could camp for the night. The owner was happy for us to camp in their veggie patch however, their dinner trade was in full swing and I wasn’t sure the dinners really needed to see our bare arses as we got changed to bivvy. So she suggested a place called “River and Rocks” which was down near the rivermouth and had free camping.
We were planning to paddle the river mouth in the morning anyway, so it made abundant sense to us. We somehow managed to pilot our bicycles to said campsite without coming to harm, however we quickly discovered the place crawling with campervans and rental cars.There were sad looking backpackers sitting shoulder to shoulder in the black dirt amongst the human excrement that was everywhere. It was awful. So we snuck through a gap in the fence that would only permit a bike rider and headed upstream a couple of hundred meters and set up camp to ourselves in somewhere slightly more clean.
The morning paddle was a piece of cake and before we knew it, we were on Dolphin Sands beach. Of course, there was a bad arse headwind blowing and it was a long grind to make it to the other end. Of course my file showed another paddle at the other end, and of course we studiously avoided it and managed to pick up an actual access track that departed the beach between the long line of private residential properties.
We were soon in Swansea and chatting to some random guys over breakfast. They were heading up the coast to paddle across Bass Straight in ocean kyaks. They had a car with them and it was going on the Ferry across to the mainland, so there was only one way they could get back to the car and that was to paddle. They had a route planned that let them basically island hop, and they had a 9 day window, but DAMN, what a hell of a trip. If things went south for us, we could have a nap under a tree, not really an option in the middle of Bass Straight.
They gave us a tip that there was a cool old pub in Triabunna where camping was free and there was usually a crew of interesting people hanging around. Of course the headwind was relentless at this point and Triabunna was looking like a big ask, but we saddled up and made it happen. It was arse. Just arse. That headwind hurt me and all i could think about was shade and a chocolate milk.
In Triabunna we found a fish and chip shop near the marina that we had been seeing signs for all the way since Swansea. I ordered a family pack, much to the confusion of the workers who didn’t realize it was all just for Tim and I. We smashed most of it but couldn’t quite get through the last piece of fish. Not a bad effort though when you saw the size of the box they brought out.
We grabbed a beer at the pub but I just wasn’t feeling the vibe or complete lack thereof. After an hour of sitting around, I asked Tim what he wanted to do. He suggest we go for a ride and since i quite enjoy doing that, I agreed. The question was where? We scrolled around Google Maps and had no luck finding a campsite and given the private property density was only going to increase since we were only about 80 kms from Hobart, we weren’t sure a stealth option was going to work either. So we wandered into tourist information centre to see what they suggested.
Apparently there was pub in Bucksland that also had free camping and was only about 20 kms away. Of course it was going to be hilly and the road was super narrow and sketchy, but we were going to have to do it sometime and there was no time like the present, so we suffered into that same damn headwind for another 1.5 hours before finally arriving at Bucksland completely and utterly broken.
Tim walked inside and ordered a beer and when he came out, all he could say was wow, it’s pretty special in there. My shout up next, so i walk into the bar and all conversation stops. 6 or 7 sets of eyes swing to watch me and you could hear a pin drop as i order some beers. It was to the extent that the loudest thing in the room by far was me pressing buttons on the eftpos machine (yes Brad, they had eftpos facilites). It was just spooky. But screw it, we could get beer, sit outside in the sun and watch the world hustle by on the main road in the distance. It was an oasis in a desert of shite roadie K’s and headwinds. On the next trip to the bar i asked the kindly barkeep about camping and he pointed out the back. So several beers later, we wandered around to a flat grassy area to find the wind was HOWLING through and tarp camping was a surefire recipe for sadness. I was wandering around looking for somewhere out of the wind when the barkeep poked his head over the pubs back fence and suggested we hunker down in the beer garden. Hell yes! So we settled in, ate as much food as we had left and nestled into the beer garden for a fantastic nights sleep.
Morning saw the wind howling harder than ever. We had 60 k’s to go to Hobart, so a manageable distance, but with some sizeable hills and the headwind, they weren’t really going to be enjoyable. So we headed off with goal of Sorell for breakfast. I won’t bore you with the list of profanities that passed through my mind as i ground up those hills into a headwind, suffice to say that the list is long and colourful. We reached Sorell and with the wind being so utterly uncomfortable, we decided to head inside for breakfast and let everyone bask in our 7-day-without-a-shower aroma.
The waitress brought out my big breakfast with the comment that she hadn’t seen anyone actually finish it (i’m sure she says that to all the guys) and so i set about working my way through a surprisingly deep plate of food. By the time i was done, i was double broken and needed a couple of coffees to sit and digest my poor food planning skills.
From there we basically rolled along the road straight to Hobart. The only interesting point being where we diverted off to pick up a single track section that runs through a mountain bike park on Hobart outskirts. This was about the time where i discovered just how loose my front skewer was. I’d been having quite a bit of difficulty getting the QR tight as it was inevitably full of sand when it was time to wrestle it closed. Eventually all the sand would wear away and leave the QR loose. My hands still weren’t real crash hot after my crash on the first day so doing it up was hard enough and i was never keen to pour good drinking water on the QR to flush the sand out. Call it a mental block but even if i had spare water, i couldn’t bring myself to do it. So anyway, the front end was clunking and banging and even though i had a couple of goes at tightening it, i couldn’t get it tight. I figured corrosion had gummed up the thread so since we were so close to finishing, i just gave up and tried to keep the front wheel on the ground. This trail had quite a few lumpy rocks though and it was easier said than done to stay on the ground. We made it through with no incident but when it came time to pack the bike up, i noticed the skewer is bent which probably explains a lot.
We rolled into Hobart and for the sake of symmetry, we had to have a little lie down in the same park where i was oh so broken 2 weeks earlier. From there we put our stuff back in the storage shed where our spare bits and pieces had been stowed for the duration of the trip, including the rare fat bike cardboard boxes. We found a hostel above the Brunswick Hotel a block away from the shed and headed straight for the shower and then settled in at the bar for a well earned beer.