Lost on the Tassie Trail … again (Ouse to Ellendale)

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Another weekend, another chance to get lost.

Out of bed early, and me and the bike rolled into the car, a coffee and Subway stop in Sandy Bay, and we were on our way to Ouse, a small town just under 100kms west of Hobart.

Just past New Norfolk I got my first glimpse of the Derwent in flow after some record rainfall earlier this week, and I could feel a small ‘oh’ forming in the back of my throat, my little ‘oh’ turned into an ‘oh, dear’ when I crested the rise just before Hamilton to be greeted by a thick blanket of fog clouding the valley in front of me, and this slowly formed thought culminated in a definite ‘gulp’ accompanied by second thoughts as I pulled up in Hamilton to be greeted by a very flood-like torrent in the stream running adjacent to the town.

The cause for my concern was that today’s ride included a fording of the Broad river, and well, they don’t put “alternate flood routes” into cycling guides unless, well you know … they’re suggesting an alternative route if the river might well be … flooded … just like that one I was looking at right there in front of me.

Compromise was made … I decided I had better actually let someone know where I was going to today, just in case, and so a quick text message later, I continued on out of mobile range to see what the day would bring.

This was time number three for my trying to cycle this section of the Tasmanian Trails.

Many years ago after returning from a months cycling around South Island New Zealand, I had decided to cycle the Tasmanian Trail route over Easter.  I got from Devonport to Ouse when my rear rack had  snapped, and I’d had to retreat to explore the Trail another day.

I had then tried the following Easter to finish the route, but had only got about half way down the Repulse Dam road when three spokes had snapped on the back wheel of my bike forcing me to once again abort my little adventure.  The plan was third time lucky today.

It was actually a pleasant start to the day in the fog.  ’twas cool (think 5-6 degrees celsius) but not freezing, as I climbed up the first little hill out of town and soon found myself turning left onto Repulse Road.  I decided to do the right thing and cycle on the legal trail next to the road, and despite one wrong turn, found the cycling a good way to warm up.  Hint to any who may follow … stick next to the road at that first fence, don’t follow the obvious track around, go through the gate.

Before I knew it, I was back on Repulse road in some beautiful farmland shrouded in the ebbing mist.  I was expecting an easy cruise down to Repulse Dam, so was a bit surprised to find myself climbing over a short, but steepish hill before the expected descent down to the Dam which was worth a bit of an explore.  Nice views up top though, and even a Tassie Trail interpretive sign … that’s a first!

I continued along (the very well signed) trail onto Dawson’s and Dunrobin’s road, and really enjoyed the climb up along a nice gentle climbing grade through recently regenerating forest with very open under-storey due to a recent fire.

That’s where I went wrong, I got to about the area where I knew I had to look for a track off to the left leading down to Broad river, I knew I was about the right distance along the road, and my GPS showed I was in abut the right place when I came across a big new road off to the left with a metal gate across it.  I could also see what looked like an old track heading off the corner, and after a bit more exploring found this old track seemed to be heading in exactly the right direction.  But after following good signs all the way here … I couldn’t find a sign in sight.
After a bit of consideration, I decided to trust my gut and headed off along the track …

I might have picked up I was on the wrong track a bit earlier if it wasn’t such a god-darned nice track, but I was just enjoying the riding and the surrounding scenery that I kept on telling myself that this must be the track.

I know this sounds strange, but where-ever the correct track is, it can’t be as nice as the one I went down.  After sidling along a new plantation for a short while, I emerged into beautiful open forestland.  I followed this downwards (keeping my eye on the GPS to make sure I was sort of going in the right direction) until I emerged into another newish (3-6 year old) plantation.  At about this point I realised I was definitely not on the yellow signed road any more Dorothy, but figured that as I had turned off onto the track too early, and as I hadn’t crossed the correct track on the way down, then by definition, I mustn’t have gone south far enough, so as long as I went south and down, I’d be bound to meet up with the Trail … after all there could only be one crossing of the river.

Sure enough, after some muddy and fun descending, and many random decisions at different junctions, I emerged above Broad river, and after riding back and forth a bit (lovely river) I found a track leading down to the river and I could see the track about 50 metres further upstream going back up on the other side.  For added certainty, there were even bike tyre tracks in the track so I was certain I was back on track.

The river was, as expected running pretty fast, and looked to be about knee deep, but after a bit of scouting I found a likely looking crossing, took the plunge, threw the bike over my shoulder and set off.  It wasn’t knee deep, it was almost waist deep.I can also tell you the mountain bikes make really bad balance points in very fast flowing streams as they act like a parachute in a stiff breeze.  After one moment when I thought I was a goner just after I shuffled out into the main flow and could feel myself being pushed off balance, I somehow managed to get my feet back under me and emerged soon thereafter with very little feeling below my waist, but pretty darn happy to know I was across and form here it was all going to be easy.

A short, sharp push up the bank on the other side and I was greeted by a really bad shock … there was a major creek to my south.  There wasn’t meant to be a major creek to my south, it was meant to be to my north.  I frantically zoomed out on the GPS and sure enough it confirmed that I hadn’t crossed the river at the right place, I was about a kilometre too far downstream, and my options were to (1) recross the river and retrace my route, (2) bash my way through a kilometre of scrub to try and get back onto the track on this side, or (3) just see where the track I was on went.  Option 3 sounded good in all sorts of ways, so off I went.

After a while I realised I was on a series of bush cutting tracks which wound in a maze-like way through the open forest in search of decent firewood trees.  All the tracks were old and lightly travelled, and to be honest they were a delight to explore for someone who wasn’t too worried where they were or how long it was going to take to get out of there (I was pretty confident on both accounts) so I explored various trails until my GPS finally showed that I was getting near a track which would lead me across sawdust creek and back onto the Tassie Trail, and sure enough I soon emerged onto a pretty significant forestry road and after a quick scoot downhill and across the creek, I saw a track junction off to my left which I recognised from an orienteering course I’d cycled up here before, so back on familiar land I continued along the road until I came across a pine plantation with a big Tasmanian Trail sign pointing along it.  So nice to be home.

Curious however, I turned around and cycled back along the way I had just come to try and find out where the real Tasmanian Trail came out onto the road I’d just cycled.  I ended up retracing my way nearly all the way back to the creek before I came across a marker and a trail off to my left.  The marker on this tree for South to North riders was missing, and if I hadn’t been really searching I would have missed the North to South marker, but with plenty of time on my side, I followed this well signed trail down to the real crossing across Broad River, enjoying the many wombat, wallaby and possum imprints in the muddy track on the way down. After a muesli bar and a bit of a think on the side of the river, I decided that of the two options, my first path may have been wrong but it was a heck of a lot nicer.  The official Trail may have been much flatter, but it was muddier and fairly uninteresting bushland.  In the end, I decided getting lost wasn’t such a bad thing.

Anyway, I turned around once again, pedalled back to the pine plantation, and proceeded to push my bike up the steep hill along the side of the plantation, and then plummeted down what turned out to be a pretty steep and technical section (due to slippery surface and lots of washouts).

Two tips for cyclists here.  
1.  The Tasmanian Trail guides suggests that cyclists detour along the road around here and rejoin the trail further along due to the sandy ground.  IGNORE THE GUIDE … this is one of the best sections of riding around here (other than the big push up over the hill and the very steep descent over the other side).  This leads me to my second tip.  
2. I believe the Official Guide has got this section wrong.  For those willing to take their navigation into their own hands, back up to km 15.2 in the guide where you join the forestry road coming up from the Broad River ford.  Instead of turning right at this junction, go left.  You’ll see a small road heading up to the right about 100metres along the road, head up this and look for a small track heading off to the left (don’t worry if you miss it, this whole spur is only a few hundred metres long, so you can easily backtrack).  Anyway, jump onto this little track  and follow it around the hill which is on your right.  This is an old logging track which has become overgrown but is still nice single track. From memory, there’s one or two junctions but just sidle around the hill, keeping the creek on your left and the hill on your right and you’ll emerge back onto the Tasmanian Trail at the dot just below the ‘k’ in creek on the map on page 63, right next to the pine plantation.  It’s a well signed junction, and from here just go left and get onto the nice section of the trail.

From here it’s delightful riding around the edge of the plantation.  However all good things come to an end, and before I knew it, I came across a marker sending me across a small creek and into yet another unsigned four way junction.  I did my usual search for signs (no success) and then decided to proceed straight ahead … again I was wrong, but eventually after cycling in circles (well actually a big rectangle) for a while, I came across on old TT sign, and was able to back track to this junction and found that I should have turned left.  I don’t know why they didn’t just follow the old route, but oh well …  anyway, from here on in, I just kept on straight ahead with sawdust creek to my left, and its some really enjoyable riding, at least I thought so.

Eventually after crossing one major road (not two as suggested) there were suddenly Tasmanian Trail signs everywhere pointing me off left down Pillies Road, and after a screaming descent where all the dirt and mud that I’d been collecting for the last 5 kilometres were shed from my bike like water from a dogs back after a bath, it was one last climb onto Ellendale road and I again had bitumen under my tyres.

This is where I left the Trail, as most cyclists will turn right here, whereas I headed back along Ellendale road to Meadowbank dam and from there back to Ouse to complete a nice days circuit.

With all my little adventures, this fairly small loop actually took me the best part of 5 hours in elapsed time,  I was pretty darn muddy, and my feet were like icicles after the descent down to Meadowbank.  However, a change of clothes and bit of hot food from the Caltex roadhouse across from where I parked and it was time to go home and upload the days route to see exactly where I went wrong … or right depending on how you look at it.

One comment

  1. If you are going to try this out and need somewhere to stay in the area of Ellendale try Kingsholme, they accept backpackers and have everything you need to have an enjoyable stay.

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