Riding the Tassie Trail
Tyla (+ Tully), Evie (+ Pigsy) and Suzie (+ Mersey), as part of the WTF (Women, Trans + Femme) Bike Explorers Grassroots Ride Series. Check out their awesome work at wtfbikexplorers.com
Cycling the Tasmanian Trail (Hobart-Devonport) – a route that more or less follows the one on Bikepacking.com (which was a great resource to us, thank you Marine & Maxime!). Ours was modified to skip the southernmost section as it was closed for fire damage. Can happily pass on the GPX route!
The tastiest apples picked off forgotten trees, the most memorable nights in country pubs. The overwhelming generosity of the world, people and nature included.
Favourite brew - is a hot cup of black tea with a dash of milk and a gingernut biccie - or any beer I can get my hands on.
Favourite snack - Peanut butter, apple, cheese and chocolate. All together.
Favourite activity - touring on my 20 year old steel beast named Tully
“Surely there’s a bridge?”
I looked up at the now familiar red and yellow Tasmanian Trail marker nailed to the tree above me, and out across the quietly flowing river to the marker on the other bank. It was about 2pm on day 9 of our TT adventure. Earlier that day, we’d spent 45 minutes crossing a river that was ankle height and about 3m wide. We’d taken photos and videos, it was the first river crossing of the trip and felt like a big moment. The one before us now was more like 20m wide.
Water so clear we couldn’t tell its depth until we were in it, we soon realised this was going to be a carry-bikes-on-shoulder affair. The excitement of how adventurous this felt wore off very quickly, as the icy water began to circle my thighs. Our saving grace was that there was very little current. If we fell over, we wouldn’t be swept away. Our toes were numb in an instant, and navigating the smooth rocks while balancing our steel beasts on our shoulders required every ounce of concentration. Halfway across I remember pausing to consider my numb feet, realising that I could have broken all my toes and have no idea. Looking up and taking in the postcard Tasmanian green forest reaching down to the river, I figured it could happen in worse places.
A lot of stuff had happened in the 9 days we’d been on the trail, but somehow this crossing felt like a defining moment in the trip. This made the whole thing an adventure. That’s not to say we hadn’t had adventurous moments before. Like on Day 2, where we pushed our laden bikes over a mountain for 6 hours, following a fire trail that was rocky on the way up, and sunken in mud on the way down. Or when our GPS track wanted to lead us through private property where we were clearly not wanted, so we opted instead to follow the trail markers through the rainforest with blind faith. We popped out on top of the mountain, a cold wind freezing our cheeks, to the eerie desolation of a forest recently burnt to the ground. Passing still-smoking piles of wood, eyes peeled for the charred remains of the markers.
The trail, and Tasmania, had been good to us. Damn good. We somehow had 10 days of dry weather, managing to stay one day ahead of a blizzard for much of the ride. Elevation each day was big, almost every day we climbed 1000m+. But what goes up must come down, and boy did we have some fun downhills. The most memorable was on day 7, where we got to descend 850m in 10km. The best part was the open view we had of the foothills below, the whole way down. So many switchbacks, so many yews. We stopped halfway down at a cute, although somewhat bizarre, village called Poatina, where we were welcomed into a gorgeous tearoom to enjoy a brew (with real milk!) and a little luxury, despite our somewhat wild appearance... and smell.
[Close up of Suzie taking a break] [Evie riding down hill on dirt with fab view]
The cycling was amazing – some of the best – and the environments we were treated to were diverse and magnificent, everything Tassie is so fondly regarded for. The story I find myself telling the most of this awesome trip is, however, the part with no cycling and little nature. It is the part where I was forced off the trail for two days, due to a broken freehub in my rear wheel.
It was on day 3, we had just stopped for lunch and I hopped back on my bike, legs pedalling wildly but the wheels not moving. I knew straight away that it was bad news. A few obligatory tears shed, we got about trying to fix it but quickly realised it was to no avail. So we made a plan. I would hitchhike to Hobart to get it fixed, and meet Evie and Suzie further north on the trail ASAP. Within 2 hours of the breakdown, I was standing at the door of the hostel I had left just 3 days earlier. Too bloody easy.
The Easter long weekend meant the shops would be closed for another day. On Monday morning I posted for help/advice on the Bikepacking Australia Facebook group. Within minutes, I had people offering the tools and help to see if the hub was fixable.
I spent Monday being helped by so many people. Luke, who pulled the wheel apart to see if the hub was fixable (turns out it was officially busted). Dave, who we met on Day 2 when he gave Suzie, who was ill, a lift over that insane mountain. Hearing I was back in Hobart, he’d gathered as many spare wheels as he could find, just in case. Carla and Will, who I met in a park at the end of the day when I’d stopped to recharge my soul, who offered me spare bikes and a possible lift back to the trail on Tuesday. Countless others who sent words of advice and support, or reached out to their cycling network on my behalf.
Ultimately, I had decided to wait for the bike shops to open early the next morning to hopefully replace the part, not the whole wheel. That night back at the hostel, I reflected on how the day – emotionally overwhelming, exhausting (Hobart has a lot of hills for a bike that doesn’t pedal), and truly uplifting – was a perfect representation of what cycle touring is to me. Even in an unfamiliar place, I was able to reach out to those in the community and receive the generous gifts of time, knowledge, skills and support. I remember falling asleep that night thinking how damn lucky I was to have found what I can only describe of as ‘my tribe’.
I made it back out to the trail to meet Suzie and Evie the next day. Two bike shops had turned me away, unable to replace the part on Tuesday morning. The day before, Eric had reached out to me through WarmShowers, offering a wheel that I could potentially use. I showed up on his doorstep and not only did he swap my wheel out, he also offered me a lift all the way out to meet the girls who were now 2.5hours drive away. Then he offered me a cup of tea while I bawled my eyes out in his kitchen, my heart too full of all the kindness I had received.
Reunited with the girls, now in the high country of central Tassie, it felt like no time at all had passed. We laughed, we slogged our way up hills, we drank beer in pubs-in-the-middle-of-nowhere. Nothing had changed, only now I was cycling with a broken wheel strapped to the top of my panniers and a heart oh-so-full of love for the adventure that cycle touring makes of life.