TAS day 5: Bridport to Scottsdale
December 31, 2015. 53km
At one point I had planned on going to Mt William National Park in the far north east. However, the prospect of another long day with 30km of unpaved roads to get to a rather primitive campsite without showers or drinking water was not appealing after yesterday. I decided last night to go a net of ~30km down the road to my originally targeted destination of Scottdale. But given the short distance, I decided I could detour another 30km or so to see Bridestowe Estates, the worlds largest lavender farm (and tourist trap).
I woke up at 5:30 but mostly enjoyed lazing about in the tent until it got too warm around 8. I packed up slowly and left around 9:30. This seems to be my pattern on bike tours. No matter my intentions, I get on the road at 9ish.
It was already hot (forecast in the high 80s). My plan to visit Bridestowe meant starting the day with 6km of back-tracking and then 20km of dirt road. This dirt road was still slow, but much better surfaced than the others. There were a lot of flies for the first half though, which was annoying.
I overshot a turnoff (the sign said no through road, so maybe it wouldn’t have worked anyway) and ended up looping around the south of the farm, arriving a bit after noon. The sad part was going down big hills I knew I would just have to go back up on the way to Scottsdale. It’s much harder to enjoy hills that way – I even found myself braking hoping that somehow going slower would make the hill smaller on the way back. Which makes no sense.
The lavender farm has a $10 entrance fee during blooming season, but it was worth it even as just a nice place to rest with a cafe. I ordered lavender pancakes with blueberry lavender jam and lavender ice cream. Plus a lavender latte. Which was excellent. Then I went and hung out under a wonderful tree while resting and waiting for a tour.
This place appears to be a magnate for Asian tourists. The literature is in two languages, and there was quite a line of people at the cafe. I didn’t buy any souvenirs, but apparently the lavender bears are quite The Thing. I gather they only let each person buy one. And they appear to have turned the bear into a safe driving mascot.
The gift shop sold everything lavender anyone could think of. Some of it wasn’t even lavender except in color.
The tour was actually more interesting than I expected. The person who started this farm was looking for a reliable source of lavender in 1910s/20s France, and France was a bit too chaotic at the time. The story goes that he saw that Tasmania was at the same (mirrored) latitude and hypothesized that the climate would work well for French lavender. So he moved his family around the world to try. He spent a while breeding lavender and ended up with 5 varieties that the farm still grows exclusively (as clones). Apparently it’s main claim to fame is that Tasmanian lavender has no camphor. So it won’t work as a moth repellent but is better for you, or some such.
They manage to grow their lavender without irrigation or fertilizer (except for cover crops planted for a year every decade or so when the replant). However, the El Niño cycle is causing severe dryness in Tasmania right now so they think they may have to start irrigating at some point. This years crop is already several weeks earlier than usual because of drought. Apparently many neighboring farmers have had their crops fail. It’s a bad year for poppies.
The tour also included the lavender harvesting machines invented here, and the distillery. They still use 1950s distilling equipment. The line was that it works well enough and that its hard to get mechanics out here so simple is better. That might be true, but it probably also makes a better tour for all the tourists paying to look at it.
Google said the 23km from the farm to Scottsdale would take 1.5 hours. Maybe without hills on an unloaded bike, but I estimated at least 2. So after another ice cream cone (hey, I’m biking all day), a raspberry soda, and some email and blog updates, I dragged myself back into the sun around 3:45pm. I the end it was probably closer to 1.5 after all. Good for Google.
My phone ran out of batteries, but I’ve had the solar panels charging my external battery all morning, so was hoping that would do the trick. Seems sort of like magic. A few hours in the sun seemed to charge my phone about 3/4. Not bad.
It turned out that there was a side route that Google nicely told me about around the biggest of those hills I wasn’t looking forward to. After that, the 20km to Scottsdale went smoothly (hilly, but not too bad). My target was North East park, a free camping area just past Scottsdale. The camping area itself isn’t all that inspired, but it has showers and comes with a rooster.
Behind the camping area is a rather nice park with pink tables and shelters and such. I showered, grabbed food and valuables, and headed back to the electric grill area to fully charge my battery and snack on pepper, rice cakes and nut mix.