Kauri Trees

IMG_0547IMG_0555IMG_0553Feb 16 – 18

We left Opononi knowing that the day would bring us through a Kauri forest and we would see one of the largest trees in the world. After my experience with the giant Eucalyptus in Tasmania I was not sure that I would be impressed. I was so wrong. Bridget, Quentin and myself cruised out of the motel early and spent a pleasant morning moving through more and more forest when we came to the sign and walkway for Tane Mahuta. Off I sauntered down the path, saw a Maori woman standing in a bend in the planked walkway so I went up to talk to her. She said hello and then asked me to turn around and look. My God, what a tree! It was immense. Over 4 meters wide and very little taper as it rose into the sky. I was amazed.

We took a few photos as I listened to our Maori guide. This tree is over 2000 years old and a larger one just 400 meters down the road checks in at over 2500 years old and is the 4th largest tree in the world. It may be the most massive. The rainforest here is magnificent. We had climbed this morning and now were rewarded with a wonderful winding descent of several K’s through this lush tropical rainforest. Wow. This is a beautiful place.

This would be a day of ascents – over 1700 meters of climbing and 134 K’s. Our lunch stop was at 58K’s and I decided to wait for Scott and Lee there. Lee is having some real discomfort from too much time on the bicycle seat – discomfort is not a strong enough adjective for what she is going through. But she wants to continue so off we go. It was a long afternoon of riding – a headwind came up making going a little tougher than we had hoped. I broke the wind for Lee wherever I could but we didn’t arrive at our hotel until late in the day. Lee is a real trooper.

There are a lot of cattle, cows and bulls throughout this part of the NZ countryside. They don’t hang out together so when I do run into a group of cattle I’ve found that I can get them going by just encouraging them to get up and get going – pretty soon they are running alongside keeping right up to us. That only lasts until they get to the next fence but it’s really fun till then. They watch us as we ride by and are curious so their response to me shouting,”C’mon you guys, let’s go” doesn’t really surprise me.

When we got into our lodgings I grabbed my bags and headed towards to my room – there was the older woman host and her grandson with a two wheeled card and Marco’s bag loaded on it. Marco was walking just behind them giving them directions. At first I thought what the hell, here is a healthy cyclist having an older woman and a young boy moving his bags when he should be doing just that himself. Then I started to laugh. Marco is so Latin, he just expects that the world revolves around him and that these things should be done for him. It was pretty funny. He also has the heaviest bag, we are all wondering just what he has in it.

The following day Scott rode with Bridget, Q and I. Lee was sitting this one out which was a very smart decision. Time to heal. We just cruised. It was lightly raining all day and the scenery was nice but not a good day for photos. We arrived at our hotel at 1:30 despite the 118K’s and some hills. Tomorrow we will take a bus down to Aukland (40K’s away), drop people off in town who want to shop and eat, and then head to a suburb hotel just south of the city. It is our first day off from the bike.

Tomorrow back on the bike for 144K’s including a trail on an old railway. No traffic and great scenery there.

We’re Off Cycling New Zealand

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IMG_3485Feb 14 and 15

Yesterday was the official start of our bike trip from the northern most tip of the North Island down to the southern most tip of the South Island. It would be a long first day. We left Paihia promptly at 7am for our 3 hour bus ride to Cape Reinga, our starting point. Bikes and luggage filled the lower compartments our our bus with six bikes taking up the back of the bus and all remaining seats with excited cyclists. As the scenery flashed by and the time passed a few heads started to lower and eyes closed. Buses will do that to you. We had one stop for coffee and a bite to eat since Marco (Italy) had eaten no breakfast before our departure. It was eleven before we found the parking lot at the top of the cape on the top of New Zealand. The landscape on the ride up consisted of sharp hills, pastureland and dotted forests that were quite tropical. There were quite a few small herds of cattle, bulls and a few scattered herds of cows taking advantage of the lush grasslands.

From the top of the headland we all gathered our gear and transferred it into the trailer that Vince, Kay and Michael (Vince’s son) would be pulling behind their SUV. The bus would head home empty now. Then all of us cyclists along with the crew took a hike down the trail to the official signed area of Cape Reinga. It was a great view of the end of the Cape and also of the meeting of theTasmanian Sea with the Southern Pacific Ocean. The difference in water temps and currents left a swirling vivid line off the end of the Cape. Pretty impressive. It was time for ;photos with the patient Kay working her way through everyone’s camera and phone. Terry mentioned that his smile was not as sincere towards the last of the shots. It was a buoyant group ready to get going. By noon we were on the road for 120K’s down the Coast and onto the Ninety Mile Beach to bring us into Apiwara, a coastal village and our next nights accommodation.

Cape Reinga is a sacred place for the Maori, the original people of the country. It is a place where their Spirits lift up to meet the Maker.

I took off with Scott, Lee, and Bridget. Bridget is a very athletic friendly woman from South Africa. She had also ridden the Cairo to Capetown trip a couple of years ago that was her connection to the people on this ride. She had raced that trip and done quite well, following it up with a solo trip down the Continental Divide from Canada to the Mexican border. The track is known to cyclists as the Great Divide. It is tough and long – 2700 miles. She ended her trip after she reached Boulder as she has a niece there and still had a nephew to visit in Milwaukee. After just a few K’s Bidget pulled up to us to say the Lee was having some problems with the winds on the descents. They can throw you around a little and be quite frightening. After determining that the bike itself was OK they continued their ride. Bridget and I kept on moving, finding Quintin dawdling long enough for us to catch up. He is from the UK and a strong light cyclist who has no problems with hills. With the headwind we experienced for most of the day, Quintin was a big help. Both of my riding partners have Garmins which track our route and displqy in on the units mounted on the handle bars. They make it unnecessary to stop to check the map and really save time. It was a tough long day with the unfavorable wind and the late start. When we were approaching our turn to the Ninety mile Beach at Kilometer 98, the wind had died down and our spirits lifted. The beach itself was such a welcome sight – not only because it was beautiful and exciting to have our bikes moving on the hard sand, but also because we knew that only 20Ks remained in our day. When we reached the motel just above the beach, we found that we had beaten our support vehicle and all the other cyclists in so there was nothing to do but find the bar and have a couple of cold refreshments.

When I saw that Scott and Lee had arrived i went out to see how the rest of their ride had been. Lee said awesome!, and I gave her a big hug. What an accomplishment for her, having never done a ride like this, never having ridden this kind of distance, and only being able to train on an indoor cycle trainer before she left. She was shining! Scott had a big grin on his face too. It turned out to be a great day despite the adverse cycling conditions. Everyone was tired and hungry – there would early bed for everyone tonight.

Bridget, Peter and I are roommates. Peter is a good friend of Terry’s from Wollongong, the same city where my buddy Barry resides. He is a manager at the prison facility and oversees a crew of 55 prisoners who make the bread for the whole state’s facilities. He and Terry had done a 4 month ride together through Eastern Europe a few years back. He is a fun loving Aussie with a great sense of humor and maybe just a little extra around the middle. The first couple of weeks or so will be Peter’s training ground as he gets into cycling shape.

Today we got up early and ready to cycle. Bridget was anxious to get going. She doesn’t like to wait around and neither does Quentin. So off we went about ten minutes ahead of the rest of the crew. Today’s conditions were great for cycling and the K’s just cruised by. Reaching the 35K coffee and lunch spot at 9am we decided to just keep going. Certainly not hungry after only a little over an hour of riding. The terrain was much like the previous day with lush forests interspersed with pastures of herd animals. I have been told that NZ is the largest producer of dairy in the world. Haven’t looked it up but we are seeing a lot of dairy cows as we move along. At the 60K mark we stopped at a nice little cafe for lunch, having not seen the lunch vehicle go by. We waited for either the vehicle or other cyclists to arrive but as both of my riding mates wanted to get going, off we went again. While waiting at the ferry just a few K’s later, Michael, Elizabeth and Marco pulled in. They told us that we had missed the lunch truck, as though we weren’t aware of that having cycled 30K beyond that point. It is a help for the crew to tick us off the list at the lunch stop so they would be aware that we weren’t somewhere behind and be waiting for us. However, Kay was aware of when we left as were several other cyclists. So we were fine.

The beach town we are in tonight is called Opononi. While Scott, Peter and I were having a refreshment at a nearby outdoor pub, we learned from an old drunk that Opo referred to a dolphin who used to come into the bay years ago and play with the local kids. That was prior to people knowing much about dolphins so that friendly behavior made that particular fish quite famous.

It’s early to bed for most of us as we have a big day tomorrow.

Paihia

IMG_3453IMG_3463IMG_0531IMG_3461Feb 13?

It’s a good sign when I’m not sure what date it is. Really don’t know what day for sure.

Paihia is a nice little beach town on the Bay of Islands here on the North Island of NZ. It faces the Pacific side and we are staying about a half block from the beach. Terry, Peter and Elizabeth as well as Lee and Scott and I went on a shakedown bike ride this morning to Russell , another vibrant little community on an island just about 9K’s away. After a short ferry boat ride we headed out on a roller coaster bike trip to Russell. The hills and capes require steep but short uphills and nice little downhill romps which is a great way to test the bikes and legs for our upcoming trip. The foliage is lush and tropical. We are on small winding roads and the trick for Scott and Lee is to remember to look right first! They are traveling on the left side for the first time. Roundabouts are a little nervy the first time but the most dangerous moments are in crossing the streets while walking because that is so automatic for us.

Our original planned route on Terry’s GPS was take a trail to Russell but the sign indicated no bicycles allowed so we just improvised on the roadway and ended up in the little town. A steep winding road put us on a great lookout over the broader ocean for photos then a fast down and we were at the quiet little beach on the opposite coast (Pacific) from Russell. The bikes were temporarily put to rest and into the ocean went this group for a swim. It was a hot day and the refreshing water made everyone pretty happy. Great views in every direction, beautiful scenery, nice cool water and good friends. What’s not to like.

Terry is a 55 year old retired prosecutor from Wollongong, a coastal city just south of Sydney. He’s a strong cyclist, a great guy and a natural leader. Also just a lot of fun. I met him on the South America trip in 2014 and his invitation is the reason that I am here. Peter is a good friend of Terry’s. They spent several months together on a bicycle trip through Eastern Europe a few years ago. He is a manager in the prison system and also lives in Wollongong. He also has a great sense of humor – I know he’ll be easy and fun to hang with on this trip. Elizabeth was also on the South America trip though only for part of it. She works and lives in Sydney and is a good cyclist. She and Terry became good friends during that time. Of course, Scott and Lee are such good friends of mine, I’m so glad they were able to come on this trip. It’s great. Most of the people on this trip know each other from a bike trip from Cairo to Capetown a few years ago. Tour D’Afrique put that ride together and the people here just refer to them as TDA.

Early on our ride Scott noticed that my rear derailer cable was hanging on the inside of the wheel instead of the outside where it belonged. I stopped to take a look and saw the that was causing the cable to rub against the sprocket and was damaging the cable. I had to pull the tire off, take the derailer off and move the cable outside to prevent further damage. Thank God Scott was paying attention or I would have had to deal with a bad cable and been looking for a bike shop before we even started our real ride. We also saw our first Kiwi but unfortunately a car had met the bird first.

After a lunch in Russell, we caught the ferry on that side to head on home to Paihia. A barbecue has been planned for this evening for everyone to get to know each other better and talk about logistics for the trip. Lindsay Gault, who was also on the Cairo to Capetown ride, is the volunteer organizer of this adventure. He has just arrived and it will be fun to meet the man with all the emails. It’s a big undertaking even though we are all experienced and being as helpful as possible. This is a ride where we more or less are just throwing money into the pot. It’s a ride with friends.

It was very near here (2K’s away) where the 1840 Treaty between England and the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maoris, was signed. The treaty gave England sovereignty over New Zealand and give the Maori protection as subjects of the Crown.

Time for me to take a catnap before the big barbecue this evening.

Farewell Tasmania, Hello New Zealand

IMG_3440IMG_3441Feb 11

I said my goodbyes to Tassie a couple of days ago. What a wonderful, comfortable, beautiful place to visit. I feel so lucky to have spent this time there. Dave, Amanda and Barry made it that much more special as they are great friends. We all owe Barry a very big thank you for the great job he did setting up our accommodations and helping sort out the route. It was really well done.

Tassie itself, as I said earlier in my blog, is just like one big small town. The largest cities, Hobart and Launceston, have beautiful old buildings and are very easy to navigate. Tassie is sparsely populated and no one is in a hurry. The island has great beaches. Uncrowded. Wild in many places. Wilderness is also a big part of the country. The west side is quite mountainous, contains lush dense rainforests, and consists of small friendly towns. Traffic is certainly no problem anywhere. It’s a place with a very high quality of life as far as I’m concerned. I will come back here.

I met my good friends Scott and Lee Bergstrom yesterday morning at our hotel in Aukland. I had arrived late the previous night while they had had the day before to check out this very modern upscale city. We were only a few blocks from the waterfront and wandered down among all the boats both big and small. So many yachts you wonder about all the money sitting here bobbing in the water. The two cruise ships in the harbor were quite simply immense. We all speculated on just how crazy the logistics and scale of supplying such a boat would be. Hard to imagine.

Aukland is quite a contrast to Hobart or Launceston. The Tassie cities are very laid back, consist largely of very old, beautifully maintained stone and masonry buildings while Aukland is a place of tall architectually modern steel, glass and concrete structures. The skyline downtown is dominated by the Sky Tower, a needle like structure 328 meters high. It has three viewing towers you can elevator to and a place to bungee jump off of if you feel the need. I was quite happy on the sidewalk below.There was a some real adjustment here for me in this bustling busy metropolis after almost a month of such a tranquil life in Tassie. Each has its beauty and place. When I arrived at our hotel it was after midnight and there was no one at reception. They had an intercom which I buzzed to no avail. My shuttle driver waited for me to try to get in so I tried again and finally got an answer from someone who gave me a code to a lock box where my instructions and key were located. i was feeling a little jangled with all the security and a cold looking glass dominated new home where I didn’t feel at home. I knew that in the morning it would all be fine but yet I wasn’t quite ready for this change.

We all hopped (17 of us) into a large tour bus the next morning for the three hour ride up to Pahia, a pleasant beach town on the Pacific side of the North Island. We had all loaded our bike boxes into a trailer which would follow us up there. This town is lovely and a world apart from downtown Aukland. Yes, now I feel back in my element. Scott, Lee and I have been busy meeting all of the folks we will be riding with, and after a lunch on the wharf with some of them, all three of us felt really good about our group. People from South Africa, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Canada as well as America were all mixing together with cycling the common thread. This evening we will assemble our bikes and tomorrow morning take a little shakedown ride to be sure everything is working well.

All for now.

Saving the Old Growth

IMG_0500IMG_0517IMG_0506Feb 7

I had planned on climbing Mt. Tim Shea today but after chatting with Derek and Anthea last night I have altered my plans. I’m heading 21K further up the Gordon River Road to the Florentine Valley to see the site of a 6 year battle between preservationists and logging companies as well as local loggers. I had written previously about the conflict in the nearby Styx River Valley where I visited the big trees yesterday. That conflict erupted in 2003 when a logging sale threatened the newly famous Christmas Tree in the Styx location. This 80+ meter giant was decorated in 1999 with over 3000 fairy lights and a large fluorescent star placed on its top by local people to draw attention to the endangerment of the big trees in the area. An application was made to the Guinness Book of World Records to recognize this tree as the tallest Xmas tree in the world. It was turned down because it didn’t meet the criteria of being a northern spruce. At that time this tree and many others in the area were due to be cut down. That started the protests, sit-ins, etc. at the Styx site. Anthea and Derek’s daughter was involved in another preservation battle begun in 2006 when another very large timber sale was let in a large tract of old growth timber in the nearby Florentine Valley.

In 2006 the Forestry Department in Tassie let a sale out to a timber company that included 15 – 50 acre parcels in the heart of the old growth forest of the Florentine Valley. Preservationists and many local citizens had been trying for years to have the Florentine and Styx old growth forests protected. The timber company started moving equipment to the area and began operations. First locals came to protest, then many more from all over Tassie, then came more folks from mainland Australia, and then with the participation of the Wilderness Society and finally Greenpeace, people from all over the world were coming to march, sit-down in front of logging equipment, sitting in the trees themselves, and in general trying to halt the cutting of these big trees. The presence of the Wilderness Society brought satellite internet and mobile phone service to the site. They also built platforms in the trees which they called Global Rescue Stations. Camp Floz was born and the media informed the whole world. Some people lived on these platforms for two and three years. A Tasmanian woman named Miranda Gibson spent 451 days straight on one of the platforms. Ropes and pulleys were used to get supplies and wastes down. Miranda completed her doctorate thesis while on this platform. She later moved over to the Styx River Valley site when that conflict was heating up. She was forced out of her tree there in 2011 when someone started the tree on fire. It was a crazy time.

Only 10 percent of the old growth forest that was in Tassie when Europeans arrived in 1800 is still standing today. I learned a little more since my previous blog about this topic. The tallest redwood is 115m tall and over 1000 years old. Most of the tallest Eucalyptus trees left in Tassie are around 600 years old and several of the largest here where I have been walking are just slightly under 100 meters high. The largest Eucalyptus ever measured was found in Victoria on mainland Australia in 1872. It had fallen and was found to be 130m on the ground. Upright it was estimated to have been around 150m high.

A compromise was reached in 2013 after the whole region was declared a World Heritage Area. The loggers would be able to still cut replanted sites in the new WHA but the old growth areas would be protected from logging. There is a lot of logging going on here now as I’ve seen riding my bike through the Styx and Florentine River roads.

My 21K ride to the former Camp Floz was mostly uphill but really beautiful. I had great views of all of the peaks along the way and the roadway was heavily forested. This is a rainforest and the vegetation below the forest canopy is lush and varied. I hear many birds as I move along and am especially intrigued by the Gallahs which move in flocks and settle in the upper canopy as I pedal past. They are large noisy birds which are mostly white but have light orange and green around their necks and heads plus a white crown that they extend like a cockatoos. The site entrance is now called Timb’s Track and it is obvious from the trail that it has not been widely used. The side trails include little treks to some of the largest trees. The second trail goes to the main site of the protests and tree platforms and is called Lungs of the Earth. The trail there would be really difficult to follow if it were not for the occasional orange ribbons. Timb’s Track continues all the way to a cabin named after its owner, John Churchill. It’s about a 3 hour walk. More on that later.

As I walked through the Lungs of the Earth, I tried to imagine the big platforms 60m up in the forest canopy above me. A string of ribbons between two giant trees signifies the former presence of one such site. Overall, though, there is almost nothing left here that would give you a clue about its significance as a world wide effort to protect this area. I guess the only real important things left are these magnificent trees.

I intended to follow the Track all the way to Churchill’s Cabin but after a side trail to a lookout, the route became confused in fallen timber and dense undergrowth. This track has very seldom been used. Even though is was established only a few short years ago, nature is already taking it over again.
So with a look at the little pamphlet Anthea had given me, I headed back the 21K’s I had ridden this morning and now biked an additional 14K down the Florentine River Road to try to find a trail into the cabin from that side.

In 1936 the last Tasmanian Tiger known to man died in a Hobart zoo. It had been trapped here in the Florentine Valley by a man named Churchill and held at his cabin in the forest until transport to the zoo. I just wanted to see that little cabin and get a feel for the type of forest around it where the Tiger lived. Although there have been a number of sightings over the years, like the Yeti, none have been verified. In 1986 the Tasmanian Tiger was officially declared extinct. It had been hunted, trapped and poisoned till there were no more.

After a ride in the heat of the day to a gate on a side road I walked further up the road until I found a trail headed in the pamphlet- described direction and twenty minutes later I found the little cabin. Very small, it was a typical trapper’s shack. Nothing too special about it except its place in natural history.

I had had a long day of pedaling, had run out of water because of the heat and just had to stop at the tiny little corner store just before my cabin for a cold bottle of raspberry flavored soda. It was another very good day.

Maydena and Giant Eucalyds

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imageFeb 5 & 6

The ride towards Maydena was a repeat of our original trip up from Hobart until the turn to Mt. Fields National Park and then on to Maydena, the last little village in this wilderness. As I traveled on the small road towards the park I came upon a field of what looked like hops. A few corners later then more. Then some really big fields. Now I started to wonder if I was confusing the tall vine like plants for something else. A stop in a small coffee shop confirmed that I was right. They told me that the climate here was just right and most of them went to Cascade Brewery, the largest producer in Tassie and located in Hobart.

I stopped at the Park Headquarters to take a look, but knew that a better adventure could probably be found in Maydena. Continuing on my way, I was soon peddling up a steep hill off of the far end of this tiny little logging town. Maydena Cabins and Alpacas. What the hell were alpacas doing here, I wondered. Derek, who along with his wife Anthea were the owners, told me that the animals were here when he bought the place ten years ago and that he had grown to enjoy them. So they grazed just in front of my nice little cabin. I also had a great view of the surrounding peaks. And talk about quiet.

I came here with the idea of seeing some of the tallest trees in the world. Unlike the Huon Pines we saw on our cruise up the Gordon River out of Strahan, some of which were over 3000 years old and grew only 1 ml in diameter a year, the Eucalyptus or Gum trees here grow into Giants. These Eucalyds keep their leaves year round. There is only one Native deciduous tree in Australia and I can’t remember its name (I am posting on the net here by standing up next to the owners house. Don’t want to stand there researching or they might think I’m lurking).

In the morning I hopped onto my bike and rode a few K’s down to a dirt logging road which took me into the Styx River area. I followed this gravel track for 15k till I came to a one car pullover and a trail with a sign saying Big Tree Reserve. Great, up the trail I hiked, keeping my eyes peeled for snakes. There are three basic varieties here and they are all venomous. I had seen a black one about 6 feet long slithering across the road earlier. They won’t attack you unless you step on them or something. I first came to huge tree with a small sign saying Big Tree. The base was huge. It was not round like a Giant Redwood, but very irregular with many different shapes jutting out. I took a few photos then headed up to the one called Bigger Tree. The sign here said 87 meters high. This base was even larger. I think the tallest tree in the US is 97 meters high but no research for me today so not sure. The sign also said that a few taller Gum Trees had been found nearby. I wished I could take a photo of me next to the big tree.

As I walked back out an older car came rumbling up to a stop. A lanky young blonde man came out and fished for his tripod and camera out of the back seat. I learned that he was British, was 23, and had been traveling for over two years. Everything he owned was in that back seat. He had bought the old car for three hundred fifty dollars and now had a few thousand K’s on it. Paid for it by picking cherries. George was the first person I had seen all day and just in time to take my photo back at the Big trees. After we got the photos, George told me that there were taller trees nearby up a side road called the Waterfall Creek Road. It had been the sight of a major protest with people camping in and around this group of tall trees when a logging firm had gotten within a half a K from them. Some had stayed in the trees for up to six months. The end result was a compromise – the huge trees were protected and the loggers were allowed to continue logging as long as they replanted in this World Heritage Site.

George worked on setting up his photos while I got back on the bike off looking for the right road. After about 6k with several side roads, none of which had a name, I started back. George met me in his car so I left my bike and hopped in the old buggy with him leaving my bike on the side of the road. After about 15K of driving and several more unnamed side roads, we gave up trying to find the Tolkien Track with Gandalf, Morannon, Fangorn and many other big behemoths. He dropped me off at my bike and took off. As I pedaled back I decided to try one more side road near our original stop at the Big Tree Reserve. As I crested the top of this steep roadway I spotted a vehicle parked on the side of the road and knew I had found it. The trail itself was marked only by an orange survey taped wrapped around a tree and was little more than a deer trail with occasional orange ribbons. There were a lot of really big gum trees throughout this little area including the largest, Gandalf’s Staff. These trees and the area had been named by the protestors who had spent weeks in tree platforms to save them from the logging operations slated to cut them down. It certainly was a forest track worthy of the Lord of the Rings. I got some photos and spent some time enjoying the magic of this place.

As I was getting on my bike to pedal home up roared George in the second hand rambler. Down went his window and I was met by a toothy grin. “George,” I said, “I’m so glad you found this place too.”

It was a great day worthy of a glass of wine which I enjoyed with George and Anthea in my little cabin.

Sent from my iPad

Hobart Again and Farewell to Barry

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imageFeb 3 and 4

We woke up the sound of rain on the roof on White Beach knowing we had a long day ahead of us. Pam had offered to give us a ride to Hobart but Barry and I wanted to finish up the way we started – on our bikes. So we said our goodbyes to Pam and Rod and took off in a steady drizzle. About 5k up the road it started to really pour – since it was warm enough, I didn’t really care knowing it wouldn’t last. Looking back at one point, I saw that Barry wasn’t behind me so I pulled under a big tree to wait. It turned out that Barry pulled over at the little country store to say a quick goodbye. Before he got out of there here came Rod pulling up in his car. Pam and Rod were concerned about the big rain. They were so thoughtful and accommodating the whole visit – this was just one more example. Barry again said his goodbyes and soon was riding up to me. Half-way through our 105k trip the sun came out and Barry was happy again.

We biked up Elizabeth Street upon our arrival in Hobart, to the Lodge at Elizabeth. The owner, Jeff, has been great to us, letting us keep our bike boxes and my duffle in his garage as well as locking my laptop with passport and money in his safe the whole time we’ve been biking round Tassie. The Lodge was a private home when it was built in 1829. Since Hobart was first established in 1804 this has to be one of the oldest homes still around. It is lavish and beautiful still. There remains an original couch from the year the house was built. All of the furniture was from the same period. The Premier once lived here and now Jeff has 14 rooms that he rents out as his B&B. We loved our time here.

Barry and I got all of our various chores done the next day, then had a celebrating dinner for our successful trip that night. We chose an attractive Mexican place just up the street and while the food was very good, I paid for it most of the night. Not much sleep for this boy.

Barry and I said our goodbyes at the bus stop as we loaded his bike in the underbelly and he was off to the airport, on to Sydney, and then home to his wife Trish. We had a great time here – it seemed to end too soon like most adventures. I’m sure he will wake tomorrow expecting to be on his bike, then realize he was back home.

I set off back up the west side of Tassie but this time turned off towards the last little village on the way to the Gordon Lake Dam and some real wilderness. Maydena.

Sent from my iPad

Tasman Island

Feb 2

This morning Barry and I took his sister Pam’s car over to Port Arthur to get on a steel bottomed Zodiac type boat for a cruise down the coastline of the Tasman Peninsula and out to visit the lighthouse on Tasman Island. The boat had 36 seats, all but 6 were weather protected by by an overhead cover. There were about 10 unoccupied seats which made it nice to move around for different photos opportunities. We started out by motoring past the famous ruins of the Port Arthur Penal Colony. Tasmania was originally established as a place for England to house its convict population and well known for the cruelty and Inhumane treatment of these individuals.

Moving out of the harbor and down the coastline it didn’t take long to approach the first of the incredible rock formations that dominate the seacoast of these highlands. Craggy rock cliffs towering up to over 300 meters high soar above us. Our guide describes this black rock as Jurassic basalt which erosion has left behind towers and cave dented coves. Limestone pipes and eroded limestone cliffs provide another color and form in this environment. We bob below the highest rock cliffs in the Southern ocean. Black-backed gulls, black and white commorants, and the occasional albatross
move through the air and Australian and New Zealand fur seals lay on the rocky ledges of cliff bottoms, sliding in and out of the lightly chopped waters to feed. We have a sunny clear sky and no lack of entertainment on this ride.

Whales and dolphins are commonly seen along this coastline, and Rod had reported a Great White Shark killing a local fisherman just two months earlier but we didn’t spot any of these residents today. What an incredible boat adventure this was for us. There is a trail now established along the top of the headlands on the three capes where we are now boating below. The boat will drop you off at one point and pick you up at the end of the 46K five day hike. Several huts provide shelter for camping along the way. No time for us bikers on this trip but maybe another day.

Departing from the boat, Barry and I take advantage of having the car by exploring some more of the bottom of this beautiful hilly peninsula. We took a short hike down below a wonderful viewpoint where we were watching surfers in a sandy bay between two large rock cliffs. This trail led us to a remarkable cave through the rock leading to the surfer’s beach. The blue opening in the black rock was picture perfect. I will try to add a photo when I reach Hobart and the Internet.

As I write this early on the morning of the third, rain is once again pounding on the rooftop. Barry will not be happy with a wet ride to the city and quite honestly neither will I. But what a great day yesterday.
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White Beach

Feb 1

We left Eaglehawk Neck with the sun trying its best to break through a portion of the persistent misty foggy overcast. The forecast was for more showers. We had a short trip of only 37k today through hilly, partially forested pastoral countryside. Idyllic. Small farms with a few cattle then open fields of sheep and orchards everywhere. The wind blew showers into our faces for a short time but then the sun won out. We are working our way down the Tasman Peninsula to White Beach to visit Barry’s sister Pam and husband Rod, who moved here 14 years ago to retire. White Beach is just 10k from historic Port Arthur and sits on the opposite side of this narrow land.

We stopped at a little country store and gas station that was straight out of the 50’s. I bought two plums and Barry and I had a nice visit with the owner sitting outside on rustic stools. I expected Andy from Mayberry to stop by any minute. We had taken the smaller road to get here – the main road took you to Port Arthur and the relatively large crowds that the former convict prison attracts. There are beautiful beaches here but almost no one on them. Barry took me to the main dock at White Beach – the water was amazingly clear. There are no manufacturing or processing plants here. 6k long beach and no resorts.

Barry’s sister Pam is a warm, friendly and kind person. I instantly felt at home. Her husband of 30 years, Rod, is a retired fireman from Wallongong and they have lived on White Beach for 14 years. Rod is a quirky old hippy type with a quick wit. The two of them have found their perfect home – just a few feet from a beautiful ocean beach, fish in a river just across a quiet country lane, an orchard full of a variety of fruits, vegetable garden and no full time neighbors. What’s not to like. They are very content and live a quiet life here.

The community itself consists of a lot of who are called “shackies”. Where I come from these people are known as second home owners.

We walked down to the ocean for a refreshing swim. Rod is entertaining us with stories, mostly examples of the imperfections of his fellow man. Government also faced tough scrutiny from Rod. However, he is a very kind man at heart and his generosity has drawn birds and animals of all types to his little Eden. They used to feed the parrots until there became too many and they were killing his trees. So they quit feeding them. The parrots all found greener pastures except one who still came into the yard. They have a fence all around and over the top of the orchard. It is supported by upright poles. Rod calls this his coliseum. Rod cut a small circular hole in the fence for the single parrot to get in. Rod “made him promise not to tell his friends.” I saw the bird sitting happily in the yard. They have a cat named Tom who used to be feral but now slips in and out of the house through his cat door. Rod feeds him prawns and wallaby meat. They have also rescued a young Joey after the mother Kangaroo died.

Rod took us across the lane to the creek where we proceeded to catch a few Brim. They looked a lot like the bass I’m used to at home. Nice way to spend an evening.

I was sleeping in the man cave next to the house. It had no bathroom facilities. When I stepped outside that night I looked up to an amazingly bright display of stars above. They seemed so much closer overhead here. The Southern Cross was so bright it couldn’t be missed.

Rod has promised me Kookaburras in the morning. Barry and I are going on a boat cruise around the Peninsula tomorrow.

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On to Orford

Jan 30

This morning we hopped on the bikes and headed back out of the Freycinet Peninsula. The day was still very overcast – everything is very gray. Taking landscapes has been really difficult since we hit the east coast. On the early portion of the ride a number of wallabies crossed the road ahead of us. They were darker than those I had been seeing earlier and Baz tells me that they are indeed a different variety called Paddymallon. The cycling is easy as we get back on the coast beyond the peninsula. We have a long straight run along the seaside. The fog, overcast skies and misty rain can’t take away the pure joy of cruising along this section on our cycles. It’s a wild coast- there is no development. We do see a few sheep grazing, some small orchards and one really cool farm on the inland side with orchards, a vineyard and olive trees. They had a small sign announcing cold pressed olive oil, jams and wine. Our bikes leave no room for shopping.

All along today’s ride there has been debris from the last two days of rain. Rivers are swollen to three times there normal width and height putting trees, bushes and much else into their flow area. We learned that over 8.5 inches of rain was recorded which was unprecedented in the eastern coast of Tassie. In the west they typically get about 16 feet of rainfall annually so this storm would not be unusual there.

Our trip to Orford was 114K and included 960 meters of climbing.

We arrived early in this small coastal town where we were staying in an older B&B called Sanda. We were delighted to find ourselves in a large home originally built in 1840 – like most larger homes from that era it was most likely built by convicts. Our quarters had stone interior walls and uneven stone floors. Two of the walls had been whitewashed at some point. There was a huge hearth in the center facing wall. Everything in the room was fittingly aged, including the lumpy little bed where I was sleeping. Barry and I were taking turns with who gets the larger bed. Most of our accommodations would have one queen sized and a small children’s bed. It was my turn for the little bed. That night I would find myself constantly sliding into a deep hollow on one side of the mattress.

The yard had large shade trees and a variety of fruit trees including a mulberry tree. Most of the trees and decorative shrubs and flowers in people’s yards are not native. There was a stunningly beautiful tree in the front yard which the proprietor called a Liquid Amber. The tree was perfectly shaped, full, and had leaves an eye catchingly bright shade of green. She tells me that they become yellow in the fall, then brown and fall off. It seems that in this climate most of the trees and foliage retain their leaves. The average winter day here is 10 – 15 degrees Centigrade. Pretty mild.

She also had a vegetable garden in the back and a chicken coop. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at Sanda with a variety of homemade jams from the orchard and really tasty homemade bread.

One of the other guests at the B&B was a retired forester. I learned from him that the huge trees we saw in old photos at Scottsdale were a variety of Eucalyptus and that there still were a few of those monsters around.

We have been seeing quite a few flocks of parrots and, with all the rain, the sound of frogs fills the air in lower stretches along the road. The parrots are a nuisance in the fruit orchards – netting is used in many places.

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