Day 7 – Great Escape Tasmania

A bit late yes but we’ve working too hard for blog posting each day. Lots of photos and videos so may go back and post content for the other days.

This is our second last day on the road of our 8 days of supported cycle traveling. To sum up hard, rewarding, well organised and scenic.

Each day (apart from the rest day) tended to fall in the same pattern ;

Get up with the birds (or howling children, barking dogs or the elderly with a single (loud) volume of voice)
Eat a breakfast of cereal, fruit, yogurt, tea or coffee
Wash dishes
Pack up tent and all clothes and camping bits
Pack bags into back of covered semi
Get on bikes and ride for 5-6 hours.
Stop for photos, cafes, provided lunch at rest stop, water drops or to swear at approaching hills.
Find bags unloaded from truck and setup tent
Queue and have shower
Wash riding clothes (in magical hot water producing sink)
Find location to hang clothes
Have a look at town (if time or town even exists)
Have snack from local town food stall on site at camp ground
Drink good tasmanian beer/wine from bar
Eat dinner in giant marquee with 600 other people
Listen to rider (de)briefing
Go to sleep about 8.30pm
Repeat

The above may sound very boring but its the riding that made things interesting when bike touring and the reason why we came. We can use today as our example…….

Todays riding was unlike the last 5 because there were two routes. One was a 45klm off road route and the other was 84klms on the road.
At the previous nights briefing we had been advised that the shorter route was not simply an easier route but would have some tricky riding, hills and would require off road skills.

Since we had already registered to do the shorter route and had sturdy bikes we thought we’d stick with it in any case. In the end we were glad we did but damn it was hard. The height profiles for the two routes looked the same however it was clear half way through that the gradiant was far higher and the road surface made things much harder.

After a nice ride along the edge of Oyster Bay it was over some small hills and into a nice town called Orford which was perched at the start of a small inlet. Lots of nice looking yatchs and fishing boats (this is Tasmanian sea food heaven after all)
We stopped for a real coffee at a large cafe that had some great food and beach side atmosphere.
After a double espresso for me and a single for Row we head out of town.

We registered with the ride marshal for the off road route and were again warned what we were getting ourselves in for. Row was getting nervous about it but a number of people were heading that way and we confirmed there would be a sag wagon if required so we started off.

No more than 1 minute down the road we were lost as the guy riding in front of us turned around and said he wasn’t sure we were going the right way.
I used my mobile to call the rider assistance line. I was told that the path was 8klm after orford and it would be sign posted and have marshals.
We travel a further 8klm on the road with no signs or marshals. Reviewing the map it was clear we were heading in the correct direction but not on the marked route. there were rumours in town of a washed away bridge so we suspected a last minute route change.

On the road we climbed a small hill and passed a magnificent little beach with luxury beach shacks perched over it. With Maria island in the background and the sun still near the horizon it was an amazing vista. We further on entered a nice forrest reserve that snaked around some cliffs leading to more secluded beaches. With the mood increasing with every fantastic view we were soon appreciating our choice of route. Not long after exiting the forest we hit the much talked about dirt track.
It was dry compacted mud with a sandy top layer with large stones occasionally poking out.
It took some time to get used to the feel but eventually I was getting the hang of picking a good line, speeding and breaking without skidding. Row was being far more cautious.

Soon the main ascent started and the going was getting harder. There were more rocks, more sand and more potholes. As soon as the gradiant reached about 10% care had to be taken to stop the back wheel spinning. Unlike descending the main aim was to avoid the compacted ultra smooth sandy line and take the section with the most smooth pounded rocks in it. The rocks even though bumpy would at least give you grip.

I pushed on and Row took a couple of walks.
As we rose higher the road got steeper sitting between 12 and 16% gradiant for a number of kilometers.
At this point I just decided to let it rip and was passing a bunch of people doing around 8klm/hr at 90% of my max heart rate.
I reached what I though was the top and caught my breath waiting for Row. Much to my surprise she came around the corner after about 10 minutes and she was riding!!!!!
She had discussed walking some of it as she still had a strained muscle and wasn’t very confident on the surface. I congratulated her and told she had done very well. Little did I know we were only half way up. The section we had done was probably equivalent to the steepest part of Mt Baw Baw but even harder due to the surface.
After some harrowing descent on a really sandy and rutted section of 16% gradiant we reached the lunch stop. We needed to ensure we weren’t getting any faster than about 5 klm/hr so we could take the corners.

At lunch we learned from a martial that we were only half way up but the remainder was not all as steep as the last part. He did say that was still some more pinches of 16% to come.
He was right and as soon as we started we were back into he hard climbing again and this time in the heat.

After another 20 mins we reached the top to get a great view of the next stretch of coast line and glittering water.

I sped off downhill feeling fairly confident to hit 30 klm/hr since the road surface was getting better the closer we got to civilization. Rowena took her time but as the road wound around the valley I’d stop to make sure I could see her safely appear back over the other side and then head off again.
After passing some trucks we were soon amongst one of the largest dairy farms I had ever seen. The normal brown drought fields we had seen throughout tassie gave was to the rolling green fields we had seen in Europe. They were being irrigated from large mobile horizontal irrigators and in the distance we could see hundreds of cows marching across a ridge to the milking sheds.

We soon came to some nice houses and the smell of cow crap. Amongst the farm sheds along the road were a number of small pens where 30 or so calves had been separated from their mother’s. They looked at us with great interest and weren’t the least bit scared pushing their heads through the fence to try and get to us.
They didn’t look any more than a day or two old and were sadly suffering some separation anxiety or were hungry for food. Not sure if they were male or female but there was a feeding trough in the paddock so they had been fed at some point. We took some photos and swore off steak for at least that night. They seemed intregued by the clicking of the SLR. We rode off with the cows running in the paddock after us and crying for us to bring them with us.

After another 20 minutes riding we reached the route marshals and checked ourselves out of what turned out to be a very interesting section of road.

We reached Copping and grabbed our luggage and setup for the night. Speaking to the local guys taking care of charging 600 people’s garmins, phones, battery’s and I suspect a few hearing aides, they told me the only things in Copping were the showground we were camping in and a winery. Based on that information we hit the showers and had an unusually dissapointing dinner.

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