TASSIE! Mysterious carrot drops, becoming ‘Carrot Man’, stout, hippy plumbers, arctic camping, epic mountain biking, huge hills, stout, rooster alarms, ultrawhite sand, rubber kelp, wolfhounds, stout, wineglass shaped bays, shredding my quads, stout.
This week has easily been my favourite of the entire trip. Everyone had told me I’d love Tassie but I still wasn’t prepared for how downright excellent it turned out to be. Tasmanians are so friendly it astounds me and the scenery and food here is next level. I have so far reached Bicheno, more or less the halfway point down the east coast. If all goes well, I should be in Hobart on Friday where I’ll spend a week catching up with friends and family before flying back to Brisbane.
Before I launch into storytelling mode, a few quick thoughts on local food.
Our society is really good at hiding things that we need to see. This has happened because people will naturally consume more if they don’t have to confront the realities of how a product is produced or what impacts it had along the way. Food is a prime example of this. Supermarket shelves often label items ‘Product of Australia’ but fail to acknowledge that Australia is a massive continent (trust me I’m riding through it) so it may still have been produced many thousands of kilometres away. While complaining about labelling laws might get us somewhere by 2050, I prefer to think that there are enough motivated and intelligent people in our country that we should be able to quit talking and start walking. If a good alternative model is developed which could make high quality local organic food available as affordably and conveniently as the bland supermarket junk, I believe that people would be willing to change their habits. Once this tipping point happens, the supermarkets would sit up and start taking notice and that is where everything could change. I am about to launch a pilot project in Brisbane bringing together the growing knowledge of experts in small scale organics from around the world with some innovative distribution strategies to kickstart this revolution. Once we prove that it works, the blueprints will be shared for other communities to follow suit. If you would like to be a part of this movement by supporting the project, hit the donate button at the top of this website to learn more about the game plan and pledge some cash, there are still a few days left before the second campaign closes.
Ok, so what’s been happening on the road?
Since last update, I successfully navigated to the island of Tasmania and cycled off the giant ramp into Devonport. I had emailed ahead while on the ferry and organised to stay with Tamieka through the Couchsurfing.com community so I was headed her way when another bike tourer buzzed up beside me and introduced himself. Matt had just cycled around Tasmania and was about to go and jump on the ferry to head over to Melbourne. We had a chat and found that we were on the same wavelength about many things, especially the idea of exploring the world on two wheels. He had also cycle volunteered his way through parts of South and Central America so he had some great stories to share. We exchanged contact details and he zipped off again while I made my way into Devonport to find Tamieka. She turned out to be a dynamo of energy and we stayed up telling our life stories and plotting on how to change the world. Next morning she was out the door at 5am delivering boxes for Australia post, being careful not to wake me as she crept past the couch. Although this trip has been great, I wish I had more time to spend with the people I meet along the way, sometimes it just seems like I’m careening by.
Before leaving Devonport, I was contacted by Southern Cross News Tasmania and asked if I would do a TV interview. I suggested we meet at the beach near Mrs Jones restaurant as it was owned by James, the brother of a bloke I had been emailing earlier that day (you’ll meet Simon later). After a quick bit of filming, including randomly handling boxes of apples in the restaurant kitchen, I set off to the East.
After a day of sketchy shoulders and rolling hills, I pedalled into a little town called Exeter around sundown where I grabbed some rice and veges and rolled into the campground/park at Gravelly Beach to set up camp. As I clipped the tent fly down, out came the rain, timing was spot on. The following morning I get a phone call, waking me up, about 6:30am. It’s ABC Radio Hobart hoping I would do a radio interview in 15 minutes. I do my best to shake myself awake but still manage to sound like a bear with a throat infection when they call me back. As I crawl from my tent, I trip over a pile of carrots left there by some early morning visitor who must have spotted the bike and thought I needed a quick carrot hit.
On the way into Launceston, every second car is on the horn or yelling “GO CARROT MAN!” out their window. As I pull into town, a group of teenagers crowds me and wants to take selfies. A woman rushes from a nearby restaurant and insists I join her family for lunch (thanks Hewitt family). In Tassie, I am no longer James. I have become ‘Carrot Man’.
The Simon I mentioned earlier was the character I had organised to stay with through the HelpX.com community in Lilydale, just north of Launceston. Simon has been the local plumber for more than 20 years and has gained a reputation as a ‘greeny’ plumber through his habit of encouraging people to install passive solar systems, water reuse and water saving devices in their homes. Simon and his partner (she was away in Italy at the time) both started the local Lilydale farmers markets and are heavily into community building. He built his house himself using mostly recycled or reclaimed timber and it’s a masterpiece, compete with plumbing art.
After a cuppa and a chat on the sun filled deck the next morning, I shot off towards Derby, passing some hipster alpacas (or are they llamas? I don’t think anybody really knows). Passing through Scottsdale I dropped in on the cafe gallery where the girls were happy to spot me a scone and a drink and point me in the direction of the rail trail. Within metres of starting the gravelly trail I had a flat tyre, my first real flat of the entire trip (the other one was from something in the back of a ute while hitchhiking so I’m not counting it). I took this as an omen and hastily took to the sealed roads again, passing through some incredibly beautiful country. I soon arrived in Derby, a tiny ex tin mining town, where I set up camp beside the river. As the sun set, the temperature dropped like a stone and I was forced to put on every bit of clothing I had and zip my sleeping bag closed just to stay warm, so I didn’t get much sleep.
Next morning I was awoken to another phone call from ABC Radio and another early morning interview, although this time I was a bit more prepared and able to sound like a normal human. A few years ago, Derby built a network of world class mountain bike trails in the hills and river beds behind the town. They were so well built, riders started coming from all over to ride them and pretty soon they were hosting national level races. I decided I couldn’t let this opportunity pass so I hired a mountain bike and hit the trails. Not only were the single tracks the best I’ve ever ridden (including world class trails in Canada), but the scenery almost melted my eyes. Tunnels of towering ferns, thickets of huge native hardwoods and crystal clear creeks made it difficult to concentrate on the trail ahead.
After tearing myself away from Derby, I was faced with a series of killer hills to ride over heading east. In a Hallelujah moment, I crested the range to find the Weldborough pub ready and waiting to serve me an ice cold locally brewed stout, courtesy of the barman Keehan. The pub has been around forever and has a reputation for stocking beers from every single one of the breweries, both big and small, in Tasmania. The owners had recently decided they needed a holiday so they enlisted the help of Keehan and his partner Alison, who were on their way through at the time, to stop and run the show for a few months. The pub was filled with friendly travellers eager to shake my hand after seeing me battle up the mountain and curious about why a grown man would choose to wear a skin tight orange lycra suit.
After coasting downhill from the top for over six kilometres with a belly full of stout I was feeling pretty good for the run into St Helens, my first stop along the east coast of Tasmania. At around sundown, I rolled into Pip and Alex’s backyard, my warmshowers.org hosts for the night. I set my tent up in amongst their incredible vege patch and was treated to a home cooked Mexican feast of burrito and regaled with stories of their life spent wandering, cycling and exploring the world. An inspirational pair of kind hearted souls. Thanks Pip and Alex.
The following morning I reassembled the bike and struck out north to check the Bay of Fires National Park. I parked the bike in the dunes at a place called The Gardens and spent a few hours marvelling at the ultra white sand, the surprisingly strong kelp, the azure water and the scattering of granite boulders dusted with vivid red and yellow moss. The Bay of Fires was named because the early explorers noted a string of campfires along this section of coast as they sailed past, not because the rocks look like they are on fire (which is what I originally figured).
The day prior I had a message sent to me by Shane, who had heard my radio interview and invited me to come and stay with him and talk backyard farming. I met him at his parents place in Binnalong Bay where Wayne and Andrea laid on a huge feast and some icy cold beers. After dinner we threw the bike in the back of the ute and headed back down the road to Shane’s two acre mini-farm. As we pulled up, Shane’s giant wolfhound Bran saw us opening the gate and started leaping around like a huge shaggy ball of excitement. Luckily he calmed quickly or he would have crushed me under his mass. Shane took the time the next morning to show me around his awesome backyard setup, which he has been gearing up to try market gardening. If anybody reading this is interested, Shane is looking for somebody that might want to come and intern for him so that he could continue working a few days a week to pay bills while the operation gets going. I would highly recommend this spot, Shane’s a legend and the area is beautiful.
From St Helens it was south towards Bichenot, through some beautiful coastal roads framed by lush green fields and native bush. Along the way I saw a sign for the Iron House Brewery and thought I had better stop in and see what it was all about purely for investigative purposes. The barman Steve wouldn’t let me leave without sampling their beers and I especially enjoyed the stout (surprise surprise) so good old Steve treated me to a pint of the black gold.
Finally arriving in Bichenot around sunset I found my way to family friends Barb and Mike’s newly built house overlooking the bay and was treated to a delicious Sunday roast and some Tassie beers. The next morning was a cracker so I donned the carrot suit, climbed back on the bike and flew south to Wineglass Bay, in the Freycinet National Park. Taking the walking track up to the lookout and then down to the beach and back, I decided it would be a good idea to do some trail running, adding more hurt to the 90 odd kilometers I was already cycling that day. Even though I can barely walk today, it was all worth it for the spectacular views and crisp white sand of Wineglass, which has been voted as one of the top ten beaches in the world. Unfortunately, the name is due to the bay resembling a glass of red wine after whales were hunted in its waters in the early days. Luckily we learnt not to be dickheads after a while.
That brings me up to date, having made it about half way down the east coast and looking good to arrive in Hobart in time to check out the farmers markets this weekend and bring an end to my journey. I want to say thanks to everyone who has encouraged, supported, donated, cheered, high fived, wolf whistled and made out with me (no one so far). Tassie is awesome but don’t tell too many people or the word will get out.
Eat local food!
(Aka. Plants Farmstrong)