A Dismal Disappointment

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A motto for 2011?

Ah, the smell of a new year.

I packed up and headed out of the Arthur River campsite after a quick cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal intent on kicking 2011 off on the 13kms of dedicated single track that had been built at Dismal Swamp, aka Tarkine Adventures.

The day started on a bit of a sour note as a few kilometres from the campsite I drove past a dead Tasmanian Devil on the side of the road.  I did a U turn and went back, took a few pics, checked it for Facial Tumour Disease and then threw it off the road out of sight of other motorists.

The only good news was that the poor thing was clean of any visual signs of the disease.  I would have hated to start the new year discovering a diseased devil in the last healthy refuge in the State.

Not much further down the road, I passed Charles Seaman who must have just set off on the first day of his 1000kms4kids charity challenge.  He was jogging along the road towards Smithton, and I waved and cheered him on from outside the very closed gates at Tarkine Adventures, which doesn’t open until 9am.

I confess I had hoped that only the buildings and slide would be closed, and that I might have been able to sneak onto the MTB trails early, but no such luck as the gates were well and truly shut with no way past.

I wasn’t too phased, and just went off for a bit of a drive, caught up on my previous days blogs, and before I knew it 9am rolled around and I found myself unpacked and ready to head out into the trails.  It was just delicious knowing I’d be the first one to head around them for 2011.

The Edge … virgin trails await the first man who enters here …

I should mention that this trail is one of the few I know of in Tasmania which has been built as a dedicated IMBA standard mountain bike trail, and it is a well thought out design with three linked loops, each one getting a bit more difficult given us cyclists the option of how much we really want to scare / challenge / hurt ourselves.

I opted for maximum on all accounts.  It just seemed like the only way to start off the year on the right foot.  I also loved the idea that after ending 2010 at the edge of the world, I start 2011 riding the Edge MTB trails.

The first section on the green loop was as it should be: easy, fast riding through pretty forest and it seemed like no time at all that I came to the diversion onto the blue (intermediate) section of track.

Green Track: Easy riding on a groomed trail

Nice forest.

On entering the blue section there was an immediate step up in difficulty, though well within even my meager skills.  I’d describe this section as simply narrower and more fun with a few more twists and turns thrown in for good measure.  The green was a cruise, the blue is where it got really fun.

Pretty typical Blue Track Sections

So don’t make me think about it then!!!!

Then the world went black.  Well the track did anyway.  It’s a big step up from the blue trail to the ‘Deviant Devil’ black trail, and they try and scare you off in the first few hundred metres (after which there is a chicken out point) as the trail twists and turns ruthlessly.

The trail beyond here is a challenge, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I was able to get around, though I’m the first to admit that it wasn’t a graceful experience, and there was plenty of sections that were beyond me.

That said, the scenery and forest were worth the sections that I had to push through, and it was so close to being a perfect ride.

But that’s the problem … it just wasn’t, instead it was disappointing, not because of the forest, not because of the well built trails, but simply and solely because in typical Tasmanian fashion they’ve let the trails go to pieces.

All up I spent nearly two and a half hours cycling around the 3 circuits, and I spent about an hour and a half of that clearing thistles, dodging cutting grass and clearing or climbing over fallen trees and branches, many of which had obviously been down for quite some time given the tracks built around them.

I can handle, even enjoy, those sort of things  on my normal rides, but this was supposed to be groomed trail, not a days adventure through rough bush tracks.  I was disappointed to my very core.  Why don’t we get it here in Tasmania????  You can’t be the tourist state and offer crap services.  Yet again,  we’ve taken a great idea and stuffed it up.  Sigh.

Notice the great little technical ramp, ruined by a branch over the top.
It was almost a relief to get back onto the blue circuit and then green circuit, the latter of which seemed to have been maintained quite well.

After the ride, I got changed and went and forked over my $20 to head down the slide into Dismal Swamp, and I have to say that the slide was suitably fun and fast, though I did feel a tad nauseous when I got to the bottom.  Problem was that at the bottom I just got … well confused.  It was like someone had this idea for a tourist attraction, but didn’t really know how to implement it, and so I wandered around looking at artists ideas of representing the site which included giant doors, plastic lobsters, metal painted cows and steel chairs and well it was ridiculous.  I felt like I was walking through a grade one arts display.

In fact I was so disappointed by it all that I was out of there about 10 minutes after exiting the slide, and on my way back to Hobart not long after that.

Don’t get me wrong, in many ways this was a great way to start the year.  I explored great trails, I’d gone somewhere new, I’d explored the edge.  I’d started 2011 of on the right pedal.

Bring on the rest of the year.

Click here to view the GPS route (requires Google Earth)

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