Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In a Tiny Corner of the World.....

Lake Roseberry, Tullah Lake Lodge
Once upon a time, in a tiny corner of the world, there was a cyclist who pedaled 100 kilometers in a day.  Now this was not anything unusual for the strong and mighty young lady, but what was so peculiar were the vastly different regions and beautiful landscapes she passed as she pedaled.  There were tall rugged mountains towering over a still, peaceful lake, brisk cold highlands, barren with low growing shrubbery and temperate rainforests with ferns as tall as humans and moss covering trees like wallpaper.  Last but now least, as is commonly found throughout Australia, there was rolling green farmland spotted with black and white cows, This farmland was different than other farmland in Australia because in the horizon you could see the mighty ocean, which is where this young lady was headed on her bike!

Rugged mountains hovering in the background leaving Tullah
Enough with the story telling, but you get the picture; Tasmania's geography is like something out of a children's storybook!  It's incredibly diverse and the reality is Tasmania is Australia's smallest state.  To give you an idea of Tasmania's size, it is about eight times smaller than Spain and four times smaller than Oregon.  If you were to combine Belgium and The Netherlands, it is roughly the same area as Tasmania. The main road that travels the periphery of Tasmania is about 1,200 kilometers.  Yesterday, in the 100 kilometers that I covered on the west coast, I cycled through 5 distinct landscapes and microclimates, yet I only passed through one town, and shared the road with no more than about two dozen vehicles in all of the 7 hours I was riding.  In the 100 kilometers I pedaled, I went from gorgeous rugged mountains on a calm still lake, rode past barren highlands, down into a lush gorge with a temperate rain forests, then out of the gorge to rolling farmlands, and ended up at the mouth of a river that flows into the ocean.  It was a long and challenging day, mostly because I had a lot of “flase flats” and I was so isolated from the rest of the world with no services to speak of.

Lake Roseberry, Tullah

My campsite....really I should have parked a caravan here

I had spent the night in Tullah, a town that hardly shows up on the map.  I wasn’t sure if there were proper camping facilities, but I had computed my days so that I would arrive on the north coast in time for a few school visits during the week.  Therefore, Tullah was a strategic stopover that didn’t let me down.  Settled on the side of Lake Roseberry, the Tullah Lake Lodge was the only accommodation in town.  I explored the shoreline of the lake before heading up to the reception to see if they’d let me camp in the caravan parking lot.  It was the only accommodation in town and doesn’t cater to tents because they want budget travelers to use their backpacker’s facilities.  Luckily they made an exception for me and I pitched my tent next to a small amenities hut and got a nice warm shower. My neighbors were a young couple who laughed at the fact I had my tent where a camper van would normally park, but they immediately recognized me as “the girl with the yellow bags” they had seen on the road earlier that day and were quite friendly.  I probably should have treated myself to a proper meal at the lodge pub, but I needed to get rid of some of my food weight as I was in for a lot of climbing the following day.  Therefore, a can of Aussie baked beans in tomato sauce, was my dinner followed by dark chocolate with almonds, my chocolate bar flavor of the week.  As gross as it may sound, it hit the spot!

Baked beans, a delicious dinner

The next morning, thanks to day light savings, I was up remarkably early,….so early, in fact, the two cafes in town weren’t open for breakfast. I had some granola bars and fruit and started my ride.  For the first 25 kilometers I climbed up from the lake and over mountains, pedaling upwards consistently through rugged peaks until I was finally rewarded with a downhill to barren highlands.  The temperature was frigid, but nothing colder than I had experienced a few days before when I found myself bundled up in almost all the warm gear I owned.  I’ve hit some cold weather on Tassie’s west coast, a first really since I was in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina back in October.  From the highlands, I came across an intersection the road, where I could pedal down the road 7 kilometers, out of the way, to have a coffee and meal, or I could continue on route to my destination.  I started to pedal down the road, motivated by the sounds of a warm coffee, but then turned around.  Seven kilometers was too much of an effort for coffee, I settled for a few more granola bars and my chocolate coffee milk concoction.  It isn’t as good as an Aussie Cappucino or a flat white, but powdered milk, instant coffee, and a bit of chocolate powder is the perfect combination of caffeine, sweetness, and energy to keep me nourished and pedaling.

Hellyer Gorge, Northwest Tasmania (very similar to Oregon rain forests)

In front of me I was facing the tougher part of my ride, a descent to the Hellyer Gorge, and then the climb back up.  I was told it was hard, but nothing “I couldn’t manage”.  It’s remarkable how other cyclists who give me route information always tell me “You’ll be fine, it’s nothing harder than you’ve already done!”  They assume I have such a high level of fitness that nothing will faze me out on the roads.  I guess they are right, I can do the climbing, but it is still challenging and difficult!  Going down to the Hellyer Gorge was a breeze.  It was like I had been transported to the temperate rain forests of Oregon.  There was something familiar about my surroundings: lush greenery, moss padding all the trees and pathways, and heaps of ferns shooting out all over the ground.  After a quick walk up the river, I hopped back on my bike, motivated by the road signs that told me there was a town called “Yolla,” up the road, about 24 kilometers.  If this town was big enough to be on the road signs, it meant that it would at least have a service station with some sort of cafe, or so I hoped. 

The highlands

Climbing out of the gorge wasn’t as grueling as I had imagined, but the last 5 of the 24 kilometers to Yolla were eternal.  At this point I had hit a total of 95 kilometers on my GPS, which normally doesn’t faze me.  But for some reason that day, I was completely spent.  Basically, I hadn’t had a proper rest stop all day, riding continually for almost 100 kilometers.  I had gone past my hunger and energy limit, using up all my reserves,…and my body desperately needed fuel!  You know what it is like going into a grocery store hungry? Well, imagine going into a grocery store completely famished after riding for almost 6 hours straight.  I didn’t realize how hungry I must have been until later that evening when I was looking through my pictures.  Here I’d taken about 20 pictures of recipes in a cooking magazine that was on the table where I had my soup.  Now looking at them, they aren’t that exciting of recipes, but at the time, I was drooling over the pictures.

From Yolla, I could see that I was close to my destination, but I lacked the motivation, so I looked to others to give me some.  I asked the lady working at the cafe my favorite but also most dreaded question,…. “What’s the road like from here to Somerset?” I don’t know why I always ask this question when I pretty much know that there are going to be hills.  I’m in Tasmania, nothing is flat!  However, this lady became my new best friend because to my surprise she told me I had a wee hill going out of town and then it was a smooth rolling descent to my destination. Even though I knew I had 15 kilometers downhill, my legs protested. They were done for the day! They ached, felt heavy, and just wouldn’t turn the way they usually did.   I found myself walking the first hill out of town, which lasted all of 50 meters, then I coasted most of the way down the hill, trying to keep myself distracted by the scenery so I wouldn’t obsessively count down the kilometers on my GPS. The scenery had now become coastal farmland, an unusual sight for me; green pastures right up to the rocky cliffs with cows grazing overlooking the ocean.

I could live there, a little barn on the top of a hill

I rolled into town singing along to a song at the top of my lungs.  I must have either been really off tune, or maybe it was the fact that I was singing in Spanish, but everyone starred at me.  I forgot that civilization existed after so many days of being in the remote wilderness, I turned down my volume just a tad, but continued to sing as I passed families and kids playing by the riverside, people kayaking, and walking alongside the river on a footpath. In the matter of 2 minutes, dozens of cars and trucks passed me on the main road, which is more traffic than I had come across the entire day or last two days.  There was a proper super market in town and public park, where I plopped down for a bit of a rest.  I was only half a kilometer from my host’s house, I was going to survive "happily ever after" but I needed a moment to take in my new “urban” surroundings, Somerset, a town of about 3,000 people. 

A typical Tasmanian coastline in the northwest

In the grand scheme of things, my day was relatively easy, yet mentally, it was difficult threatened by riding in such a remote area without services.  Had this been anywhere else in the world, it would have taken hundreds of kilometers to pass by so many diverse landscapes yet, in Tasmania, in this minute little corner of the world, I had seen everything from rugged mountains to highlands, farmland and the coastline all in a mere 100 kilometers.

Little did I know the following day I would see another small little corner of Tasmania.  My Warmshower host took me on a magnificent 350-kilometer tour (by car of course) of the western corner of Tasmania where there is such isolated wilderness that many of the roads have not even been paved.  I still can’t believe all the beautiful scenery I’m encountering in Tasmania, and such little tourism.  So far, I vote this place the best kept secret on my entire trip, but definitely worthy of a visit if you go to Australia, especially if you cycle!

No comments:

Post a Comment