The morning after the first day is always the hardest. At home I wouldn’t be phased by a 120km ride with 1200 meters of climbing, but at home I wouldn’t be doing another big ride the next day, not to mention the four days after that. Fortunately the next two days weren’t all that big; we were scheduled for about 60k today, up to Cradle Mountain, the most popular national park in Tasmania. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that I was the youngest person on the tour, my legs and joints felt very creaky when I got out of bed.
Breakfast was an all-you-can-eat buffet, always a dangerous venue for a bicycle touring group. This was our first exposure to Australian bacon, which comes in strips about 3 inches wide and a foot long. [Sorry: 7x30cm]. The juice glasses were as small as the bacon was large; why give me a plate, say “all you can eat”, and then make me get up 4 times during breakfast to refill my tiny juice glass? [Possible answer: to give me an excuse to get more food]. This was really my only food-related complaint on the whole trip; Australia retains a strong kinship with Great Britain, but thankfully they’ve had the taste to get rid of all the English food.
As is the norm when I tour with a group, I was running late and wound up being last on the road. The hearty breakfast had energized me, so despite my legs being somewhat tight, I was able to catch up with the rest of the Bay Area group, and we rode together to the top of a moderate rise, where we learned that “Fatigue Can Be Fatal.” (This became my mantra while battling 60kph headwinds a couple days later).
There was a fast, fun descent after that (79.5 kph), and I wound up catching most of the extended group along the way. The bottom of the descent was also the beginning of a significant climb (600 meters elevation gain); I fortunately realized before the climb that in my haste in the morning I’d forgotten to fill my CamelBak. Bob was waiting with the van and I got a fill from his cooler. Pretty much everyone who was going to ride up the hill got going ahead of me; I managed to catch Peter and Tammy on the climb (one of the few times I’d catch Peter on a climb all trip), but we didn’t manage to reel in Claire and Wally on the steep section.
On the climb, we saw road graffiti lambasting Forestry Tasmania, which apparently is letting loggers wood-chip a whole bunch of old-growth forests. We saw a few logging trucks on this leg, and even more later in the trip. Many of the Tasmania natives apparently feel that encouraging tourism to see one of the last and most unspoilt [note metric spelling] temperate rain forests in the world, would in the long run be of more value to Tasmania than cutting the forest down for wood chips.
At the end of the steep section we entered Moina, where there was a tearoom and general store. In keeping with the local culture, I had a frozen Mars Bar. While we were there, a group of cowpersons (most were female) came by, herding about 100 head of cattle along the road towards Cradle Mountain. It was quite a sight; they had trucks on either end of the herd stopping traffic, and a motorcycle buzzing through the cows to open gaps for cars and bicycles to ride through. Claire and Wally took off ahead of the herd, but the rest of us stayed around getting photos and having meaningful conversations with the cows. The ride through the cattle was quite a bit of fun, though not so much olfactorily.
There was a bit more climbing after Moina, then the terrain changed to open plateau with gorgeous views and long, open roads. I caught up with Art right near the top of the hill (see photo). I kept seeing Tammy and Peter far ahead of me, and I’d gain on them for a while but then stop to take more pictures. I eventually caught them only a couple of klicks from the lodge.
It was a very short day for riding, so it was only about noon when we arrived at Cradle Mountain. My room was not ready, so I went to the lounge to try to get my camera batteries charged up and read the paper. While there, I got to hear an obnoxious American woman berate the hotel staff about her cabin, which didn’t have a good enough view, or a veranda, or an extra room for the kids. I came pretty close to pointing out to her that she was in a wilderness lodge in Tasmania, not at the bloody Waldorf Astoria. [Apology to foreigners: We’re not all like that. (Are we?)]
I grabbed a quick sandwich at Casa Boocock, after which my room was ready. I changed into hiking gear; there were a number of hikes beginning at the lodge, one of which was a 3-hour loop that should be difficult enough to dissuade the rabble. I set off around 2:00. The trail was on boardwalks at first, and there was quite a bit of foot traffic of the grandmotherly variety. After the first waterfall, the boardwalks ended and the traffic largely disappeared, though the trail remained gentle until it crossed the river. After crossing the river on a wooden bridge, the hike became quite challenging, getting close to rock-climbing in parts. Still, I felt like I was making better time than expected, so when I saw a side trail down to the river, marked as a 10 minute return, I thought it would be worth a look.
The trail down to the river was unremarkable, but at the end I had the most bizarre “small world” encounter of my life; sitting on a rock at the end of the trail was a person who I had recently worked with in the Astronomy department at Berkeley. He’d gotten his PhD and was taking time off between jobs; neither of us had any idea the other was in Australia. He’d grown a mustache and beard since I’d last seen him, so I didn’t recognize him at first. But I haven’t changed my hairdo since I was 10 years old, so people tend to recognize me. Henry provided one of the few photos of me you’ll ever see in one of these trip reports—a prerogative of the photographer is you get to avoid having pictures taken of you.
The river itself was also notable; the deep brown color is the result of tannins from tree roots; Tasmanian river water is clean enough to drink (they have no giardia). There was a nice waterfall down to the river basin.
Henry was doing the trail in the opposite direction from me, so I continued on alone. I had walked about half the distance in just over an hour, so I thought the 3-hour estimate was inflated, but the walk back was on the other side of the ridge, and it was significantly more challenging. There were places where you had to look for the trail markers to know where to go; the trail over the rocks wasn’t visible so much as a functional thing with foot and hand holds, as much as a set of trail markers to follow. This side of the ridge was wooded, so it didn’t get very hot, but I still worked up a real good sweat.
Near the top of the trail, I got to see a pair of sulphur-crested cockatoos in the wild; they are beautiful in flight. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any usable photos. After that, the trail headed down into the woods, becoming less difficult as it did so. The last bit was along the dirt road back to the lodge; my feet were sore and I was tired but I was still moving pretty well overall.
I took a long, hot shower, then returned to the lounge to attempt to use the internet terminal there. It was slow but functional up to a point. The point where it stopped being functional was after I tried to reply to an email, which was when I first noticed that all the function keys, escape key, control and alt keys were disabled on the keyboard. Have you ever tried to run emacs without a control or escape key? It doesn’t work out very well. So much for checking email. (I’m probably better off without it, anyway).
Dinner was slow. Apparently Australia favors the European tradition, where you spend two or three hours eating dinner because they wait 30 minutes to bring out each course. Bob pointed out that the idea was to relax and enjoy the meal. I countered that I’d rather eat quickly, then relax and enjoy something else. Me not being in charge, they did it Bob’s way, so it was almost 10:00 before dinner (fish) was done.
|Day 2 totals