The weather forecast was cold with rain. A perfect Saturday not to be on the bike, but I’d promised myself, so it was out of bed early and fortified by a bacon and egg breakfast sub and a large latte in Kingston, I found myself in the car park in Geeveston unloading my bike around 8am. It was time to ride the last big section of the Tasmanian Trail south of Ouse.
The bitumen ended after a km or two, then it was left Kermandie River road (unsigned) following the walking sign up to Hartz Peak. This is where the slight upward grade, became a hill and I found myself flicking down the gears pretty quickly as the body wasn;t quite ready for the first days effort.
It’s a lovely ride along this section, the wattles were out in full bloom, the surface was rocky but fun. Just as the legs and heart were getting warmed up, I emerged out into a three way junction in a young eucalypt plantation, where the road to Hartz Walking track continues straight ahead, but the trail actual goes on the left fork up Haulage Road (unsigned) and up the hill. 100 metres past this corner, I came to a small cattle grid and surprise, surprise a TT registration booth.
Somewhat excited, I opened it up and had a read through. Here’s a depressing summary: It had all the registrations going back to Janaury 2009 … all 8 of them … all on one single page. In over 20 months only 8 groups totalling 18 riders had ridden through here on the trail. 2 groups had been on horse, 5 on mountain bike and 1 on foot, and only four had actually started up in Devonport. Three had started in Geeveston like me, and one was coming up from Dover. What’s even more depressing were the comments:
“about bloody time”
“stop logging near it”
“If you don’t stop logging, build a new trail”
“wet, wet, wet … half party of seven rode via highway”
“Need a track copy for this century, not out of date 1900’s”
But fortunately, there was on one “Great mate” from a group who had been on horses.
I added my name to the list, and continued on up the hill. It’s a fairly long stint up from here, but although steepish, sections of the plantations you’re riding through are all dark and overgrwn with moss everywhere and it has this really nice ambience to it before you emerge back out into the open, industrial forest landscape, of the State’s Southern Forest. Whilst I don’t mind looking over a logged forest landscape, I do think they really need to rethink the “Prelude to Wilderness” badge they put on this section of the trail, as it is a bit misleading.
Anyway, unfortunatley, from the high point the forest is just at a height that you can’t really see out over the Huon Valley unless you scramble up onto a stump, so I continued on. It’s a short downhill run down from here, you hit a T junction where you go left, up a deceptive little climb, and then drop down again into a big four way junction. It’s really important to go left here down Hermons Road. I was up this way a month and it was all well signed, but today the Hermons Road sign and Tasmanian Trail signs had all been trashed. Whislt I fixed them up, there’s no guaratee they’ll stay that way.
It’s a decent downhill run from here down through some patches of remant wet forest to the junction of Boney Road (approx 2kms) on the right. This is where the riding really gets fun, OK , maybe not straight away, I personally found myself either grinding away in bottom gear or pushing my bike for the first section of Boney Road, but once up on top, you come around a corner in a big open area recently converted to plantation, and find yourself plunging into a narrow, wet, slippery fun track with thick vegetation on both sides. This is the section you come to ride.
All good things come to an end and after enjoying the forested section, I emerged out onto a track through button grass plain, which was equally fun riding, but not as scenic, and just as I was really getting into dodging big puddles and pushing along deep ruts, it all came to a crashing end as Boney Spur 2 came in from the right and I suddenly found myself grinding along a surface of large loose stones.
Mercifully the rocky surface turned into a proper gravel road after a half kilometre or so and the grade turned downward for a fast free wheeling descent onto Hopetun Road (there were a few turn offs to the left and right, but the were all well signed when I rode the trail.). I hung a right here (admittedly after a wishful look off in the other direction which would be a good exit point for anyone seeking a shorter return to Geeveston) and headed back towards the hill. I was therefore rather surprised to find this section nice flat easy riding, and that the area was through some pretty regeneration forest.
|Notice three arrows, three directions.|
Then I came to John’s Road. Having gotten so lost in the past, I had GPS’d the whole route this time so I wouldn’t get lost, and my GPS said I should go right at John’s Road. Unfortunately this juntion was a bit too well signed. How so? There were signs pointing in three different directions, which is kind of hard when you can only go in two (where you came from and where you’re going). I decided to trust my old guide and headed down John’s Road, across a small bridge, then settled into a steep climb which emerged out onto a fairly major, but unsigned road. After more umming and ahhing I decided to ride up to the next junction and see if I could find signs there. As I climbed up and up this hill, my GPS position diverged more and more from where my route told me where I was supposed to be going and after finally reaching the top of the climb I had to admit that I was no longer on the trail, I therefore accepted the inevitable and turned tail and retreated back down all the hard won altitude I’d just previously climbed. Keeping a much closer eye out for junctions to my right on the way back down, I finally found what looked to be a small snigging road, but which on closer investigation turned out to be the road I should have been on if I were following the tasmanian trail in my guide (edition 1). However there were still no Tasmanian Trail signs so I continued my retreat to Hopetun road and followed this in the opposite direction. Sure enough, half a kilometre further down the road, Hopetun Road merges with another road (which I later found to be the one I was following before – it’s a labyrinth out there) and joy of joy it had a Tas Trail marker on it.
From here it was an enjoyable road for a kilometer or two, I even stopped for a couple of pics by a lovely creek, before I came to a signed junction with Stubbs Link Road on the left. Of course by now, I had no idea where the trail went, and the Tasmanian Trail guide on the stubbs link road was less than clear in whether it was indicating you continue along Hopetun Road or up Stubbs Link. After several minutes of procrastination I decided it pointed slightly more up the Link Road, so turned left and headed up, and I mean up. This is one of those climbs where you can’t stop because it’s just too steep to get going again, but at the same time your legs and lungs are screaming for a rest. There were of course no comfort signs providing assurance you’re going the right way, but fortunately Stubbs Link is only a few hundred metres before it emerges onto Stubbs Road, where I found another Tasmanian Trail sign pointing me off to the right.
I was pretty buggered at this time after my long detour, and thought I was at the top. I was wrong. From here the track continues to wind its way slowly up around the side of the hill (again past several small junctions with no signage) through a recently logged area, before reentering some beautiful bushland, but continuing to climb. After what seemed like ages to me (my head was already in Dover having lunch) I emerged out onto Storm Hill Road (more trail signs, Yay) which started heading down, and I started celebrating … again too soon. Storm Hill Rd, soon hit a T junction, but the Tas Trail sign crossed this road and headed off onto some wet, muddy single trail in the bush. Now if my head was in the right place, I’d be raving about this next section, but I was cold and hungry, the ground was so wet and slippery I found myself walking the bike down the first section of the track and I was feeling pretty grumpy all around. Fortunately, the track emerged out of the mud just as I was about to start saying nasty things out loud, and I found myself riding through some sandy, scenic, descending single track. This section emerges out onto yet another road, which you follow around to the left for a few hundred meters before a signed, but not obvious trail heads off to the right again. From here it’s a bit of a downhill before emerging out into a 2-3 year old eucalypt plantation. The trail continues through this plantation (just keep going on the track you’re on), through a small saddle and up over a hill, then down, down, down. For me this section was wet, slippery and overgrown and I’ve got plenty of nicks and cuts to prove it on the legs. At the bottom of the plantation you have to through your bike over a locked gate, head down a short track which emerges into a paddock with a small dam right in front of you. There are more signs in the next 200metres than I’d seen all day (seriously there’s about 10 of them) making sure you go to the right of the dam and follow a short track into the bush. about 50 metres along this track you’ll see another fence in front of you, and a small track to your left (but no sign), go down for 40 metres or so and you’ll come out at another locked gate you’ll have to throw the bike over.
Now I found myself standing in a farmers paddock, with cattle, and I couldn’t see a sign for the life of me. In the end I decided to head diagonally across the paddock towards another gate I could see heading towards the top of the hill where there was a phone transmission tower. Fortunately there was one last TT sign on this tower, because I was really starting to think I was trespassing.
From here there’s no more signs, but you can see Dover just below you and a bit of an indistinct track. I just followed this down, through two unlocked gates … or it could have been three to eventually emerge back out into a deserted subdivision and just below this a final welcoming sign marking the end of the Tasmanian Trail.
As I sat in the Dover Bakery, warmed by the sun streaming through the window, and eating a scallop pie I decided that this was actually one of the best sections of the Trail I’d ridden which really surprised me. However I soon forgot this as I realised that my scallop pie was literally A scallop pie … it only had one scallop in it which was a bit disappointing, but still enought to fuel me up for the 22km return ride back along the highway to Geeveston.
I found the traffic along this road to be very polite and considerate, and fairly light and it’s actually a pretty nice section of the State. All up the circuit was just under 60kms, but that included my 5km detour, and took my about 5-6 hours including quite a few stops and lunch.
EPILOGUE: Somewhat intrigued by why my guide was so innacurate I decided to purchase the online guide from http://www.tasmaniantrail.com.au/. This is the third edition. I won’t say too much, but I will say buy they online guide, it might not be 100% up to date, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what I had, and or example it would have told me that the detour I took to along John’s was still marked as it is an alternative route for people who want to camp out before heading into Geeveston.