Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015
Day 14 - St Helens to Scottsdale - I make it a hat-trick of punctures on our longest day
|That's 4,730', a bit like Ben Nevis on a touring bike|
Wednesday 18 February. It would have been an early start but the caterers were pretty slow off the mark so we didn't get away until 8.00. Our panniers were to be carried for us (see yesterday's post) and it's surprisingly tricky to remember to take everything you need on the day - spares, tools and so on. You'd be cross if you had a puncture if your spare inner tubes were in your panniers in a van somewhere (funny I should say that... read on!)
Mounted on our super-light bikes (!) we left through St Helens's suburbs, soon after which Richard was stopped, looking up at a large bird in a tree to the left, which turned out to be our best sighting of a Wedge-tailed Eagle.
|The Wedge-tailed Eagle|
Just before Pyengana we came across an Echidna, which Tony and Deborah had seen crossing the road. What I find puzzling is that we normally spotted Echidnas this way - crossing the road - and yet I never saw a single road-kill. Whereas I never saw a wallaby or a possum crossing the road, and there were lots and lots of them sprawled out, lifeless, on the tarmac. An enigma.
During coffee and Kit-Kat at the Pyengana filling station / cafe, I noticed a wooden plaque to the fallen of the two World Wars and was struck by the fact that of the eleven names there were only two surnames - Dobson and Nichols, simultaneously suggesting that this must have been a very tight-knit community and demonstrating the dreadful consequences of conflicts on the other side of the world.
|Big ferns (2 metres high)|
It began to drizzle as we left, and in fact it rained all the way up the day's longest climb, as we went from just above sea-level to an altitude of 600 m (nearly 2,000'). Along the way were lots of enormous ferns, like bracken on steroids, making you wonder whether you've stepped back in time to the Carboniferous era or earlier. With a sense of recurring deja vu I noticed my front tyre deflating for the third day in a row, and at the top, where Irene was waiting for Steve and getting very cold, I pumped it up and carried on downhill for a while, into a drier and slightly warmer environment.
Luckily I'd borrowed a spare tube from Tony and stopped to fit it, concluding that my spare from yesterday was probably too small a section. To be honest, I'd probably been a bit blase when packing my spares, because I never get punctures. Now it was becoming a daily chore! Happily it would prove to be the last one (puncture, that is, not inner tube).
|Not the pub, just a photogenic old shed!|
Not long afterwards we came to a proper pub, at Weldborough. I say a proper pub, but it didn't have a proper welcome. Stopping for a coffee with Steve and Irene, we found the landlady to be cold and severe, and when I asked if I could eat some of my own food she relented only if I went outside with it. Well, I thought, I can eat my own food outside anywhere I like, so I won't be doing it outside your cold pub.
As we were leaving, she lit the fire.
|Lovely house converted from the old town bank|
By Derby (pronounced 'Durby' the sun had come out and all was lovely and warm again. More coffee, this time with carrot cake, at the 'Arts' cafe, where there were lots of paintings and other cultural stuff on exhibition everywhere. Leaving this small town it appeared as though the route would be nice and gentle, but then it started to undulate until a big climb hove into sight - 345 m of Billycock Hill.
Stopping for a brief rest I was watching a bird in the trees which looked unfamiliar. I took some photos but they were against the light, and it was only when I brought them up on the computer and lightened them up that I realised that this was another new bird for me - a Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike.
Finally, a gut-wrenching climb just before Scottsdale, where I got on to Irene's back wheel as she 'towed' me up to the top, only for us to see a long descent and an equally horrendous second hill to the town itself. I went in front expecting to return the compliment but Irene dropped off on the downhill: for some reason I got stick from John later on, who said I was being un-gallant, but I did my best honest, Irene!
I arrived at the hotel in a state of complete knackeredness, to find that the bags had all been left around the back, but mine weren't there. After a brief panic it turned out that Ken had taken mine, thinking we'd be room-sharing when in fact we all had our own individual (tiny) single room. Ken was relieved as he wasn't sure how he was going to swing a cat.
Another early dinner and early night. Tomorrow we head west for Launceston, Tasmania's second city. 61 miles today, grand total so far 496.