Monday, January 26, 2015

Tasmania on a Royal Enfield Bullet, 2015

I dreamed I was back in an old job. The aggressive clients were more abusive than ever, and we therapists were more micro-managed than ever. I was looking at a large, wall-mounted screen, on which my every movement was numerically recorded and assessed for efficiency. And then a noise from a caravan outside woke me, and I realised I was in a different job, and was at that moment on holiday in Tasmania.

That was the first morning, after arriving the previous evening on the ferry from Melbourne. It was the beginning of a holiday which is now a yearly pilgrimage; you might remember this and this. The difference on the current trip is that I fulfilled a longing and rode a Royal Enfield, purchased  new and just in time for the journey.

I had woken from my dream in Somerset on the northern coast. It was summer but the day resembled a temperate winter as the joy of my single cylinder engine rang out across the hills. I wound through bend after bend west of Cradle Mountain. The air was crisp, the light soft, the world lucid and kind. Greener and greener it became, moving from farm hills to mountains which were dense with forest and ferns.

Later that day the land dried out by degrees as I descended the western mountains, out onto the undulating plains of the midlands. 

On and on, at dusk I arrived in Nicholls Rivullett where I would be staying the fortnight with my father and his wife. The Cygnet Folk Festival was in full swing and the town was transformed during those initial days. Soon it quietened however and I settled into my daily round, of motorcycling and reading and drinking coffee. Every day I would do this, enjoying the local roads many of which skirted the ocean.

I took along Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea, a long novel which I read slowly over the span of the trip, finishing the day before I returned. It is full of delicious descriptions of food, eaten on lazy days by the ocean, a description almost of my own experience.

I would sit by the ocean reading this book, my bike beside me, local fruit in my napsack. Some days the sun shone, some days it rained, and on others a moody atmosphere hung - the sea dirty and frustrated, splashing at my feet.

I had intended to write, and did edit this older piece after the sad events just prior to my leaving, but mostly I lived the passive life. 

This is the view from my father's deck, looking across the mountains:

It changed from day to day as I drank red wine and read or thought or imagined.

I often sat on the Woodbridge side of the coast and watched the boats go by.

My God, the roads in this area are a joy to ride on a Royal Enfield. I felt perpetually in a scene from Heartbeat. Many of the roads are single lane and weave past farms. At times I had to dodge sheep, tractors, and encroaching black berries. Everywhere I stopped people came and spoke to me about the bike, many of them non-riders who loved its 1940s looks. 

One afternoon I sat against the church in Cygnet, reading my book in the shade. I took the photo below while sitting there, and it shows the main part of the town, which is more like a village. A fellow walked past and asked what I was reading. It emerged that he knew Murdoch through philosophy, which is also how I first knew her. He, Michael, then told me how he had been involved for many years in federal politics and diplomacy under Hawke and Keating including as diplomat to the international criminal caught in the Hague, and how he had become late in life a priest. On the same day that I arrived in Cygnet Michael did too, to commence at his new (and probably last) parish. All this was told to me as we sat on his kitchen chairs, which he had pulled onto the lawn as we spoke, and while drinking the tea which he brewed for me, and which we drank while sitting there in the sun, in an old rose garden.

I was to meet many different people. The next daywhile returning from Southport I wanted coffee. I pulled up at an olde English tavern only to find it closed. A girl on the verandah directed me in broken English to an adjacent building. It looked closed. I pushed open its heavy door and stepped into a wall of marijuana smoke and loud folk music. I had stepped into a den of French hippies. They were clustered in groups drinking, smoking, some playing pool. There was a bar which looked like a druggie's lounge room, and a barman who suggested he could boil an espresso coffee pot for me. He did, with a ten shot espresso pot, and handed me a pint mug filled to the brim with those ten shots.

On other days I did not ride but instead adventured onto the water. I canoed through Cygnet bay among moored yachts, and on another day journeyed out onto deeper seas.

But mostly I rode, read, ate and drank, my feet dangling over the edge of rocks above the waves.

On my second last day I traveled north through the midlands and finished Murdoch in an 1820s convict cemetery.

After consuming a wallaby pie for lunch, I headed further north via Bothwell and up through the lakes district. I was alone in this landscape and the Bullet motored along joyfully, never skipping a beat, making me happy in its pulsating beauty.

The landscape changes so much up here. The sky is pure, the landscape untouched and inviting.

From high up the valley below spreads like a map.

I stayed the night at the Poatina Chalet, a left-over 1960s lodge in a left-over worker's village in the mountains. This was the view from my bed.

A view which changed constantly:

In the morning it greeted me.

I spent my last day riding a loop which took me slowly back to Devonport and the ferry. I overtook tourists in the twisty mountains and the Bullet proved adept, the torquey engine pulling away lustily and sounding like a 1920s machine gun.

I caught the ferry in the evening. It was, as usual, a wonderful two weeks, which as usual left me wondering why I live in the city. I had put 2,500km on the Bullet, taking it to over 5000km, and it performed flawlessly. Why did I not buy one of these years ago. This is the best bike I have ever ridden.


  1. Beautiful pics, Matt. The Enfield looks gorgeous in this scenery. Looks like you had a wonderful trip. Love the room with the million dollar view.

  2. It sounds marvelous. One of these days I would like to do much the same trip.

  3. nice post..thanks for sharing this beautiful post.......

  4. This is a great blog and Tassie is such a beautiful state and

    lovely place. Our tour started out really well organized. I

    went on the Port Arthur and Tasman Peninsula tour with a stop

    at the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park.