TAS day 13: Maria Island to Eaglehawk Neck
January 8, 2016. 85km.
Today was an enforced slow start since the first boat leaving Maria Island departs at 10am. I was packed up early and spent an hour or so lounging by the jetty and listening to an audiobook. A little after 10 my ride arrived.
There were some people also catching this boat who had about as much stuff as would fit in a large car, even though they had to leave the car behind. It took quite a while both to load and then unload it all. And the bike didn’t get unloaded until all the bags and boxes and crates were passed up to the dock. When all was said and done, I got on the road from Triabunna a bit after 11am.
Th road to Orford was uneventful (it’s only a few km). From there, there’s an option to take a dirt road south (the Weilangta Forest Drive), but the road is of questionable quality. The woman I met who did the tour last year said that she took that road and it was the worst day of her trip (she had to walk much of it and several driver stopped to tell her she needed to turn around). Another option was to continue on the A3 for another 15km to a different dirt road, Nugent Road. I had seen recommendations of using Nugent Rd as part of road bike day trip loops, so I had a bit more confidence it would be rideable. However, those extra 15km of the A3 turned out to be rather hair raising. There was no shoulder and the road was right up against a cliff shedding small rocks on my side, and a drop off into a river on the other. To make it even more fun, at one point the road decided to go basically straight up. Luckily that was only for a couple hundred feet, but it was probably the steepest I’ve encountered so far. It’s amazing how you find the strength to keep pedaling when the alternative is to get run over or fall off a cliff. Fortunately the was a side road/driveway at the top of that hill that I could pull into to rest. It was actually rather scenic, but there was no was I was going to stop to take a picture, and the view from the driveway wasn’t great. Google street view for the win.
In any case, I was pretty excited to get to my turn off and get away from the cars. Nugent Road turned out to be a pretty smooth dirt (actually dirt, not loose gravel) road with barely any traffic. It was quit enjoyable, even when it went straight up a hill at one point. I just stopped every few minutes to catch my breath.
After climbing the one significant hill, it was just 20km or so of quiet forests. Once I got to Nugent the town (well, the two houses, 50 feet of paved road and the sign that said ‘Nugent’) there were an increasing number of farms and ranches, and even a car or two. Still quite pleasant.
After Nugent I turned onto Kellevie Rd which was equally pleasant. I even got to add to my list of sighted animals.
Getting closer to A9, civilization started to return. I found yet another type of crop.
All too soon I was back to main roads, as the A9 is basically the only road into the Tasman Peninsula. There are a few kinds of roads in Tasmania that I’ve encountered so far. There are the really rural dirt roads, the rural unlined paved roads, and the highways with lines painted. Tasmanian drivers are great on the first two – they slow or stop until they can see far enough to safely pass. They don’t get aggressive. But as soon as there is a white line on the side of the road, they seem to expect that you’ll be on the other side of it and that the white line somehow magically makes it ok to not move over at all. Tasmanian shoulders are typically not very wide at all, so this is not usually fun. The first time I’ve been honked at in anger (there have been a couple thank you beep-beeps when I’ve pulled over to let large buses etc by) was on the A9 when I was in the right (inner) side of the white line because the shoulder was covered in gravel. The driver even had clear visibility and no oncoming traffic. I chose to believe that driver was a foreigner and let the Tasmanians keep their almost-reasonable driving behaviour reputation.
The A9 was hilly and there was a headwind, but coming out of Dunalley onto the peninsula around low tide I got to see an interesting beach. The land was basically flat and the ocean receded a long way with the tide, leaving stripes of water in washboarded sand.
After a fair bit of climbing, descending and climbing again, I got to the scenic overlook over Eaglehawk Neck. Only one more hill to go down (and unfortunately back up in two days) to get to the first luxury accomodation of the trip – my very own hotel suite for two nights.
At the bottom of the hill I found my hotel.
I had booked the only type of room left a couple days earlier, which was one of their self-contained suites. Somewhat more expensive, but it came with a washing machine! Doing laundry was great. Washing things by hand works for a while, but everything was starting to feel and smell not-so-clean. I ate at the hotel restaurant (basically the only thing around) and ended up watching War of the Worlds because it was on TV. The shower couldn’t keep a contant temperature, and the people upstairs caused thumping and creaking when walking around. But with my washing machine and real bed I didn’t care.