Of course Lea was causing a fuss on the ferry, not wanting to be tied down. The side stand is on a spring and keeps flying up as soon as the weight is taken off it. And I still don’t have a centre stand. Eventually Aidan and the crew managed to secure her safely though.
The Ferry to Tasmania takes nine hours, so we made ourselves comfortable in the reading area, planning the road ahead, catching up with diaries and curing mild seasickness with lots of sweeties and crap TV.
Arriving in Tassie felt a bit like arriving in Ireland. You come from a really big island to a really small one and find it’s colder, windyer, rainyer and dark. Almost every Aussie you meet will warn you about driving after dusk. The wildlife here seems to refuse to acknowledge the danger of the roads. In the dark they wonder whether it’s safe on the other side. And when they can finally see that it is in the headlight – your headlight – they try to cross. Kangaroos, wombats and wallabies, to mention but a few, will do at least as much damage to the bike as it will to them.
So we ode super slowly and arrived at our chosen campsite in the dark. We woke to find it’s actually a really nice place!
We took it easy the first day, sorted a few admin things in town and then followed the coastal road west. Yes, it’s a bit of a boring highway but it offered stunning views and a pretty spot to have lunch. Aidan cheffed up some warm soup (Tassie is a lot colder than what we’d gotten acclimatised to in Sydney). And yes, we found the much missed Banana Bread Beer 🙂
Being this far south the sun doesn’t rise high in autumn and it gets dark quickly. So before we knew it, it was time to find a pretty wildcamping spot. In the morning a guy walked past with his dog and we got chatting. It didn’t seem like it, damp and cloudy as it was, but apparently Tassie had suffered a drought this summer.
The next bit of green farm land made that hard to believe.
But soon, riding down the gravel of the Great Western Explorer through seemingly endless national park, we saw whole landscapes that had burned in bush fires recently. The ground and tree trunks were charred black and the greenery had wilted to brown. New green shoots were only just coming through. Elsewhere the landscape was just brown and dried up.
It had rained recently though and everything was wet. The road turned rather slippery and we crawled along. Only to be overtaken by a couple of riders who seemed magically immune to their bikes slipping this way and that. Guess we still have a lot of riding skills to learn!
That night we stayed in the mountains and it got very cold. So cold we woke before sunrise, shivering. There was frost on the grass and the bikes.
So far I hadn’t liked the landscape too much. Yes, it is wild and I love nature. But it was so brown and dreary. It seems round here the beauty is in the small detail. Little bright green plants shaped like stars grow between the rocks, tiny bushes have red and pink berries. Lichen colour stones white and orange. Surprisingly there are still a lot of bees buzzing about despite the temperatures and tiny flowers bloom everywhere as if it was spring, not autumn. And there are all sorts of mushrooms everywhere.
We reached Queenstown, famous for it’s mining history and how the iron, copper, gold and more were discovered and mined. The road behind the town rises steeply into the colourful hills along the most awesome twisties. Tiny waterfalls rush into the valley and you get a great view over the town.
Over the hill the landscape begins to change. Rocky mountains and big blue lakes dominate the scene.
We had to visit The Wall. A huge piece of art that is just that. A wall of one metre by three metre wooden panels telling the local history of the hydroelectric power stations and the hard work put in to build them. It is a work in progress and you are not allowed to take any photos inside (so I stole a couple off the internet). For some reason they are super worried about copyrights.
Even more impressive than the wall – we thought – were the lose pieces dotted around the edges of the hallway. The artist had managed to create gloves, aprons, shirts and other pieces of cloth looking so real and hanging so naturally over an axe or a door, that your brain just cannot fathom they are made of wood.
Then the landscape transitioned into parched farmland all dusty and brown. Sheep and cows had grazed the grass down to the roots and nothing had regrown all summer. The hilly land was all different shades of brown.
In the distance we saw an odd cloud rise: another bush fire. As darkness fell it turned the sky to a bruised purple.
We had been wildcamping for a few days now and were in desperate need of a shower. So we forked out the small fee for a pretty little camp site in Hamilton that offered hot showers and a washing machine. Nothing like taking a break from the road, enjoying some cheap wine and catching up with diaries feeling all fresh and clean and human again!
The next day we would ride into Hobart to visit the much anticipated MONA.