Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tasmania - the first days

I have just begun a two week holiday in Tasmania.  I spent my teenage years there, attending the local high school in Cygnet until Year 10, and my father still lives here on a mountain in the bush at Nicholls Rivulett.  I have always traveled by plane when visiting, but have longed to one time bring a bike over and ride through the State, and now I am fulfilling that desire. 

I took a cheap 'day sailing' ticket which had me leaving Melbourne at 9AM into Port Phillip Bay. 

The journey through the narrow channels of the bay was hours long.  The time was made easier by the fact that my wife's grandfather and great-grandfather were tugboat captains on this bay and I have recently done some research, pulling up old newspaper articles about them (they had some real adventures that spanned the first half of the twentieth century).  These stories were in my mind as I looked over the water.

Then we passed through the heads and I thought of my motorcycle, below decks, domino-like in row with other unstable bikes, on this tossing ship.  

But once outside the heads the day was increasingly calm and eventually stunning.

The boat arrived in Tasmania at 6PM and I spent the first night camping in Devonport.  When I camp I find my body clock switches to hunter-gatherer mode.  And so the next morning I was up very early with a simple mission: to reach Nicholls Rivulett by a leisurely but interesting route.  This meant that the Midland Highway - Tasmania's Hume - was out.

So I headed south from Devonport along a single-lane road along a lake's edge.  Then I passed through towns centering around bridges with English trees and ponds and ducks.  I took a route through Railton to Longford.  The morning was overcast and cool, with a light scattering of rain, and my first impression was of how English the landscape seemed (to an Anglo-Australian who has often dreamed of, but never been to, England).  There was a real sense of comfort in the landscape.

But this sense became complicated as I travelled.  I was also struck by how limited one's options might be for work in various places, or even how hard it might be to find work at all.  And as I passed natural bush abutting the road I was also stuck that beyond the thin veneer of European houses and flora the bush itself was a place that would happily kill you - it appeared cold and inhospitable, or perhaps a place for native creatures only, the mist only increasing the sense of it being otherwise a place for struggling and dying, not for warm human living.

South of Longford I rode across an incredible valley of soaked green grasses, despite it being the height of summer.  Often on this trip I did not - and will not - take photos of the wonderful things I saw, as I mostly want to experience being here rather than recording it.  From this valley I rose and rose up an excellent, tightly winding mountain.  Gradually the valley from whence I came spread out below like a map, and then disappeared behind the fog.    

It was chilly up in the heights, and dense with fog.  But how freely I could breathe; and how serenely everything lay about me.

The place was silent, mystical.  If it could speak, and I could understand, it would have said: "It is not how the world is...but that it is".

I detoured along alpine waters: the awesome Great Lake, via Cramps Bay on a gravel road.

Further on a fire had recently passed through in this place where the earth touches the sky.  The pure air was suffused with ash.     

I passed Arthur's Lake with an increasing feeling of exuberance that translated itself into speed.  Despite having a deer jump out in front of me (deadly on a motorcycle) I found my throttle light and the high speeds came easy as I spun along like a whirlwind through descending straights and massive curves.  The sun shone increasingly: I was descending into a valley where the bush was hot and the grass golden for summer.  Something caught my eye and I stopped and walked through the trees to find these sculptures.



Onwards I rode, through Bothwell and down to Hobart.  Toward the end of my day I tore along Nicholls Rivulett Road - the best motorcycling road in Tasmania? - which leads me right past my father's property.  I am now riding that road daily and it is incredible.  But such tales are for further posts.  Indeed I had a wonderful ride today but will write about it tomorrow, as it is now time for bed in preparation for another day on my road-burning twin. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Matt, great read!
    I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but check out "Lakes Leaks road". When I was down there years ago with 200+ Ducati riders, that was a high talking point.

    I'm jealous!

    In other news, New rubber steering mounts (Yamaha calls them holders) are sitting on my desk waiting to go into your SR hopefully tonight. You'll be wanting it back soon :-)