Sometimes journeys and ideas are dreamt up over a long time, others are on the spot decisions reached moments before enacting on them. I had my eyes set on a trip down the west coast only weeks before setting out on the adventure, the plans changed more than once in the end I found myself attacking this leg of my Tasmanian adventure solo.
The original intention was to do a less off the beaten track version of this with my partner but work had her heading home early from the east coast.
I set out from Launceston airport at 4pm with a vague goal of reaching Cradle mountain, 160km to the west, by around midnight. The first 75km were done with ease and I reached Deloraine for dinner around 730pm.
Beyond Deloraine I pedalled into the setting sun on quiet back roads and Mt Roland became the immediate goal.
I rolled on some dirt roads as bandicoots, potoroos and wallabies made suicidal dashes in front of me. The Sun was long gone but the midsummer twilight lasted hours. The Shadow of Mt Roland was ever present until I was beyond it.
Once I was at the 100km mark I knew I was well and truly on my way but the next 60 km were all uphill and I was beginning to show the signs of fatigue. The goal in my head that kept me pushing was the opportunity to capture a few photos of the sunrise at Cradle mountain.
I stopped to brew up a quick coffee in the Forth river gorge. I place I remembered from a trip in the other direction 13 years prior. My mate Ben and I rode 150kms in an afternoon from Cradle to Launceston. I feat which still sets a benchmark for big days in the saddle today. I remember the solid climb I was about to undertake as a buzzing downhill that seemed to go on forever years before.
I was happily enjoying my coffee and nutella drowned cookies in the dark when a car pulled into the cutting where I was sitting, my lights were off and I didn’t know what to do, so I switched on my head torch and the driver obviously shat themselves dropped the clutch and was out of there with wheels spinning in the dirt! If you have ever been scared to tackle a solo overnighter, just remember someone sitting in the middle of nowhere turning on their head torch is way scarier for the intruder!
I climbed on up towards Cradle, it was getting colder and a light fog was rolling in. I pushed on hoping the fog would not get thicker and block out the sunrise view I was hoping so much to capture. The wildlife was getting insane and required way more concentration than a usual quiet late night road ride. There is no way I would drive a car in Tasmania after sunset. I locked up the rear wheel a few times as Wombats darted out in front. It was approaching 2am but I only had 13km from the main road to the car park so was looking forward a short power nap followed by breakfast. The road into Dove Lake was hillier than I remember but at least it was sealed these days.
I reached the day visitors hut shortly after 3am, I was cold but surprisingly didn’t feel tired. I changed into something warm and got into my sleeping bag to warm up and cooked a very early breakfast.
The lake was already bathed in pre dawn light so armed with my camera I went out for a walk on the shores of the lake. The mood was surreal and whilst there were a few others around the lake also trying to capture the moment, I felt completely alone in an overwhelming landscape.
Just as a few cars drove into the carpark the fog that I had been outrunning since late in the night rolled in and enveloped the mountain. I felt so lucky that I had pushed on through the night and caught one of the most spectacular sunrises i’ve ever experienced.
I got back down to Cradle Village around 7am and found nothing was open and wouldn’t be til 9am. I decided there was no point hanging around, I had food and sitting still was kinda cold, so I pressed on.
The fog came in quick and I found myself back out on the main road with visibility down to 50 meters. With the low shrubs and green grass of the high plains I could have been mistaken for thinking I was in Scotland.
The roads in Tasmania always seem to just got straight over the hills and rarely around them. The cradle mountain development road often had gradients of 15% as it undulated between 600 to 900m.
Waratah was my next goal 50 km to the west. I took it really easy, after all I hadn’t slept since 6am the day before and had been struggling to eat a lot. Eventually the fog cleared and the sun warmed my bones again. The highlight of the morning was seeing a Tasmanian devil running along the street in front of me!
I sat in the Waratah genral store for close to two hours going back to order something new from the menu. Their couch was so comfortable and I did fear falling asleep on it but enjoyed the break. It also gave a fantastic view of their shelves and so I began the process of dreaming about what snacks to get for the next 3-5 days journey down the coast to Strahan.
The road into the Tarkine follows powerlines all the way to Savage River mine so was blessed with some pretty decent climbs and descents. Occasionally climbing through dappled rainforest light and at other times exposed to the baking hot sun.
From Savage river to Corinna the road is gravel and it was good to finally get off the tarmac and get into the adventure. The last descent into Corinna was incredible. Ancient Huon pines towered above as the cool rainforest breeze passed over me.
The feeling when I got to Corinna was a little overwhelming, I felt wrecked, hadn’t slept for 36 hours and was having trouble picturing my intended journey from Arthur River back to Pieman heads. It would involve another 90 km ride to the north and then unknow beach sections and a portage in a boat I had never used for the purpose of carrying my bike. It was all a bit much to comprehend on the back of a 330km non stop commute.
I couldn’t really find a place to camp in Corinna as it is a private resort with 4 star accommodation and flanked by very steep hills either side. I made a sensible decision to think it over with a beer from the bar. I consulted my maps and found a track that led out to the west coast just south of Piemen heads, all I would have to do is cross the river on the punt and ride about 15 km. I could be there before sunset! Three beers and a curry later I was crossing the Pieman river and heading for the coast.