Tasmania

Day 3: Cradle Mountain to Tullah


The plan for day 3 was to take the van into Cradle Mountain National Park, do a hike of about 3 hours, then come back, have lunch, and do the ride into Tullah in the afternoon. We only had about 60k to ride, and most of that was downhill, so we had time for a significant morning bushwalk.

For breakfast, I had my first taste of muesli. The Aussie tradition is to glop a lot of milk and yogurt onto it, and I wasn’t that impressed. But it was a heck of a lot better than the Vegemite I’d tried in Launceston. Someone should be sued for trying to pass off Shaquille O’Neal’s toe jam as a food product.

With the help of the Boococks, I convinced the other four Bay Area folks to do the walk up to Hansen’s Peak, which wouldn’t be nearly as populated as the more touristy hike towards Cradle Mountain itself. We didn’t have enough time to get all the way to Cradle anyway. A few of the group stayed behind at the lodge, some did the easy hike around Dove Lake, but the five of us and Bob went up towards the Finger Lakes for a 3-hour tour.

The day was mostly cloudy, but the weather was fine, unless you’re an Australian; in Australia, “fine” means “not cloudy.” Apparently it can be minus 10 and “fine” in Tasmania, which seems to be missing the point a bit. But in any case, it was good weather for a walk. The trail climbed up for a while, then descended to the other side of the ridge. Bob pointed out that anywhere you see buttongrass, it tends to be boggy. We saw a lot of buttongrass on this hike. Most of us didn’t have real hiking boots, and Tammy even had her shoe sucked off at one point. “A taste of real Tasmanian bushwalking!” was Bob’s comment.

The boggy areas were challenging, the climbs were rocky and nearly vertical at times, and the scenery was incredible. We saw no other walkers on this portion of the trail, and it felt very isolated.

We took our first significant stop at the Finger Lakes, then continued on to Hansen’s Peak, where we got panoramic views of Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake.

The hike back down around the other side of the mountain was much different than the hike up; it was all rocky and steep, with lots of scree. There were support chains on a few of the steepest sections, but most weren’t all that well secured; I found it easier to turn around and face the hill like I was rock climbing.

We had a true Boocock Moment after we caught our first glimpse of the parking area; Bob said, “oh, we’ll be there in 10 minutes or so,” just seconds before we saw a sign saying it was a 45 minute walk. (Once again I direct you to the Tasmanian-English Dictionary.)

About 45 minutes later we were in the van headed back to the lodge. We had decided, since the afternoon’s ride was reported to be easy (though it should be noted that that report came from the Boococks), that we’d get lunch at the lodge rather than throwing sandwiches together. As is usual for me on bike tours, I was craving a cheeseburger.

Energized after our luxurious lunch, we got on the road headed for Tullah. There were a couple of climbs at first, but they were fairly small and we had a nice tailwind, so we mostly were able to power over them. We once again ran into the cattle being herded up the road, and this time had to ride through them without the benefit of a motorcyclist clearing the way. It was more fun doing it on our own; I got to do a bit of herding myself. (“Hyah!”)

I stopped to get a panorama at a huge alpine pasture (which is where I theorize the cattle were being driven to) just before a steep climb. After my photos, I plodded up the climb alone, then had an amazingly fast double descent; the first part got me over 80 kph, then it flattened out a bit before dropping off again. My top speed was 89 kph, which is tied for my fastest ever. If I didn’t have that tripod creating drag, I’m sure I would have hit 90. What a blast!

With that kind of speed going for me, plus a tailwind, it didn’t take me long to catch up with the group. The tailwind stuck with us all the way into Tullah, so we made incredible time. There were a number of small rises, but with our momentum and the tailwind we blasted over them and kept going. We took a brief break where Damian had the van waiting at the intersection with A10. Roads designated with “A” are “major roads”, which in western Tasmania means you see a car maybe once a minute instead of once every 3-4 minutes.

A10 turned out to be even faster than the road we’d been on; after two short climbs, it was almost all downhill into Tullah. Wally went off the front over the last climb, never to be seen again; I put up a little chase effort, but my heart wasn’t really in it. The scenery was spectacular and I was just enjoying the ride.

Before I knew it, I was in Tullah. We’d been warned there was nothing to do in Tullah, and that turned out to be pretty accurate. There was a path by the lake, but it had gotten so windy that a walk outside was an unattractive idea. The town drunk was two-fisted drinking in the lobby and striking up loud, incoherent conversations with anyone who wandered in. The lodge also had a karaoke machine, mercifully silent.

Ah yes, the lodge. We were staying in buildings they termed “chalets,” but which to our American eyes looked a lot more like barracks, made out of cheap paneling and aluminum siding [or aluminium, depending]. Each room’s bathroom shared a fan with the bathroom next door. It might have been an amusing performance art piece to reenact the ugly American tourist scene from yesterday by going up to the front desk to demand a better view and a verandah.

Dinner was “smorgasbord,” all you can eat, once again a welcome sight to a bike touring group, though today’s ride hadn’t been particularly strenuous. We were asked if we wanted soup or a kebab to start; kebab is the obvious answer to that question, but it turned out to be a trick, as the kebab was available in the smorgasbord. The food was decent.

The schedule for tomorrow was to do another easy ride into Strahan, but Tammy wasn’t satisfied with that; she suggested that we do an extra ride out to Reece Dam, along a set of largely unused hydro roads. Me being myself, I had to agree to do it if anyone else would. Tammy managed to convince Peter and Wally, so I was in. Claire was prevaricating; she wanted to see how she felt in the morning. (We’d learn more about Claire’s tendency towards prevarication later).

Damian got out the map to help us plan the route, and our favorite drunkard came over to our table and helpfully pointed to map features large enough to locate with blurred vision, such as Antarctica. Eventually he was run off by the hotel staff. Without his help, we decided on a 100k loop, which would make the entire ride for the day about 140k.

I felt pretty good, but still decided to get an early sleep for what would be a big day tomorrow.

Day 3 totals
Average speed: 27.4 kph
Distance: 56.8 km
Climb: 600 meters
Cumulative Totals
Average speed: 22.6 kph
Distance: 220.2 km
Climb 2988 meters

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