Monday, March 8, 2010

Tasmania Pt. 2

After a night to remember in the cool, dewy grass of People's Park in Strahan...a night spent gazing at the stars and making massive speculation about the human condition, Chris and I said goodbye to the rest of our mates and headed for Queenstown.  

I'd heard people describe the area around Queenstown as bare and desolate, a landscape poisoned by decades of unsustainable mining.  Some told us the locals preferred to leave the barren brown mountainsides as a reminder...others said we could look closely and find emerging signs of life on the hills surrounding the town.  But while we never got the full story of why, Queenstown looked and felt like like the place it was: a mining town on the wrong side of history. 
Still, it was an amazing place.  When we arrived in town, passing the hulking masses of rusting mining equipment dotting the hillside, Chris and I stopped off for a coffee on Main Street where we watched locals and visitors intermingle somewhat seamlessly.  As with many old mining towns in Tassy, Queenstown nurtures a modest but healthy brand of tourism.  The main street, emanating charm from another era, was a pleasant place to stop for a rest and recoup.  After a flat white and a scone, the kind ladies at the coffee shop offered to fill up our water bladders.  And boy were we gonna need it. 
The day into and out of Queenstown turned out to be the hottest--and hilliest--day of the tour.  The picture above shows the road up and out of Queenstown in the middle of a 10 kilometer climb.  The picture below shows the town in the distance, the road cut into the side of the mountain.  

The brown mountain side stands in stark contrast to the lush, rolling, green hills pictured below.  Queenstown looked and felt old and desolate.  
The day's ride out of Strahan and into Queenstown took us through to the Frankiln Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.  With Pete staying near Strahan and Bec and Leigh bound for Melbourne on bus steered north towards a fairy aimed at Port Philip Bay, Chris and I hit the mountainous west coast interior as a duo.  Below was our first bush camp as a duo, quaint quarters on a four wheel drive track that veered off the main road.  
The camp space pictured here was almost forsaken for space next to the waterfall pictured below.  Nelson Falls had an amazing little spot next to the creek meandering off and away from the falls, but it would have been far too chilly for us to camp directly beside the water in the rainforest.  Not to mention we fielded questions from about 250 tourists in the hour we sat at the falls.  Enough was enough, we decided. So we rode on to our bush camp, climbing up and through Victoria Pass.
Our second full day in the wilderness took us through the Surprise Valley, pictured below in all of it's expansive beauty. 
We camped beside a small body of water called Bronte Lagoon in the midst of the middle highlands. On the lagoon we saw fisherman slowly making their way across the lake as we settled into camp.  This was sunset from our campsite.   
The road from Strahan out towards the interior of Tasmania, the road leading through the Western wilderness, across the western mountain ranges and into a tangle of wild rivers was (somewhat) appropriately called "The West Coast Road."  Opened in 1932, the road provided access for Tasmanian governors to the remote mining towns on the west coast.  It also provided a link to the Western settlement of Strahan for goods requiring movement inland.  Strahan is 12k from the MacQuarie heads, which is the entrance to Strahan's port. Dubbed Hells Gates because of it's narrow, rocky opening, the MacQuarie Heads swallowed up many a ship intent on docking in Strahan. 
The third day of the duo tour was a rough one.  Starting out from Bronte Lagoon, Chris and I headed towards New Norfolk--more than 100k from the lagoon.  The morning and early afternoon went well, a bit hot, but beautiful riding. We stopped for coffee in a small town called Hamilton, recharging our batteries and filling up our tanks with coffee and pastries.  Climbing out of Hamilton in the heat of the day, the third straight day in the 30s, I began to feel a bit faint.  Now on the days previous, Chris and I had taken every opportunity we had to enjoy a frosty adult beverage or a coffee...both of which are diuretics...and both of which will dehydrate you. So after hundreds of meters of climbing, it turned out to be a modest hill outside Hamilton that did me in. I pulled into the shade to take quick rest and realized something wasn't right. It wasn't long before I realized I had become dehydrated.

Pushing on for another 30 kilometers probably wasn't the best decision I've made in life. Nonetheless, near dark, I pedaled feebly into New Norfolk--a city just over 25 K north of Hobart. I could barely stand up.

Turns out, I had suffered a heatstroke. Intensely dehydrated and beaten by the sun, Chris and I decided to take a bus the last 25 k to Hobart. I made the decision to head back to Devonport on the next day while Chris went along to meet the rest of our friends for a tour of the east coast.

The tour was amazing...I saw some beautiful wilderness land and learned a few valuable lands. Perhaps best of all, before leaving Tassy I had the chance to see a sweet band:

This is how the route looks in its entirety:
View Tasmania tour in a larger map

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