Click the play button above to view the video from our trip.
Bike Round Oz are a rental and advice provider for those looking to do exactly that. We flew into Australia with a gear bag and they provided us with three ‘Expedition Ready’ bikes, fitted with crash bars and handgaurds. They provided luggage bags (Panniers, tents and camping kit is also available) and storage for our excess kit. We strapped up and road thousands of kilometres around Tasmania and the East Coast without an issue. The service is top notch. For more on Bike Round Oz click here.
In traffic we sit. The solar heat beats through the window of the Isuzu. Faux animal skins cover the seats. The freeway a perfect formation of different cars, engaging in monotonous routines. It’s 8am. Every car does the same speed. Traffic camera after traffic camera decorates the roadside like palms on a seaside boulevard. Orwell would be proud.
“The Eastern Grey brakes too. His feet scrabble for grip on the tarmac. They find none. He slides. He crashes.”
We are warned of speeding. We are warned of breaking any road rules. “Is filtering allowed?”. No one knows the answer. Unsure, we sit in traffic. We are human sardines. At 100 Km/h we swim. No faster, no slower. The tedium is painful.
The morning air is fresh. It rips through my clothing like a sharp knife through flesh. The thermometer reads 2°C. The mirrors on my bike frost over. This is not the Australia you expect.
We arrive to Launceston. The sun is high in the blue, cloudless sky. There is a warmth to it but it is not warm. UTE’s are omnipresent. A woman crosses the road. A tattoo on her neck reads “Family”. The scent of eucalyptus is carried on the gentle breeze. We sit in a Mexican café, eat a breakfast burrito and swallow a flat white.
We ride in a staggered line through the bush. The trail is tight and winding. The highway close by can be heard, the rumble of trucks breaking up the constant squawk of wattle birds. Leaves rustle, from the gum canopy and beneath our feet. Spider webs fill the gaps between branches. The track is littered with eucalyptus bark and leaves, each gust of wind forging movement and imitating serpents. Chris is oblivious to the tiger snake he just crushed. So begins the regaling deadly serpent stories, of men being killed by snakes stuck in wheel arches.
I look at the map. We’re in Ben Lomond National park. Marked trails are abundant. The faintest dotted line calls us. Inside it’s digitised edges lies a trail untouched for years. The bush has begun its reclamation. The gum trees interlock; the spider webs make us shiver with discomfort. The image of a hairy, deadly spider running beyond a neck line is a difficult thought to shed.
There are two bridges destroyed. The first we navigate with ease, a path sliced through the trees. The second makes us uneasy. The river has swallowed the mud and logs, leaving but a bikes width of trail. To our left is 30ft of nothing. To the right is 15ft of leg breaking trees. In the middle, a wheel sized gap. The earthen crossing shudders with every step. We ponder a repair. A temporary fix is a permanent solution.
A convenient rock fits perfectly. I don gloves and slide my hand under the edge, fully comprehending the stupidity of such actions. The rock is flipped, an ‘Oh SHIT’ is released for snakes and wallabies to hear. Scorpions. Spiders. One hole in a bridge suitably covered.
Ben Lomond Ski Resort. The conditions changed quickly, rain falls, the wind blows, the sun peaks through bulbous clouds. The inclement weather crafts a spectacular drama around the rugged, worn rock. A court of Benet’s Wallabies hop their hypnotic hop and we stand mesmerised by the scenery. Clouds roll through the ancient plateau.
This is not Australia. There are no deserts here. The ancient, stepped, mountain side inspires awe, a rain soaked, perfect dirt road snaking below enveloped by gum trees. This is Europe, the America’s. Another Wallaby hops by.
“The icy water curls my toes as I wade inward. The flow is strong, tugging at my legs”
Gnarled, weather beaten gum trees. A lumbering mountain range. The rawness of the landscape builds awe. We amble at a pace fitting of absorbing the surroundings. A single dirt road falls across the landscape, carved into the shrubby forest.
To the east; nothing. Emptiness.
The west; vast ocean stretching to the bottom of the earth.
We climb. We Descend. There is no phone signal. The only sign of humanity is the dirt. This place does not belong to us. Another Wallaby. Waves of pure awe, amazement soak us to the bone. This is indescribable.
We head south. The hills grow in size. They become mountains, blanketed in bent, twisted, wise old trees protecting and hiding the life beneath. Here the trees don’t grow tall. They bear the signs of generations spent wrestling oceans and winds, branches stretching out like a witch’s fingers.
The soil changes quickly. The ride is not challenging. The drizzle provides grip. The wind is cutting. We weave through the troughs and peaks of the primordial landscape.
A familiar smell obliterates my nose. Europe. Home. Pine. The gums trees have gone. The forest has changed. The succinct rainfall has bound the dirt. It’s grippy, predictable and ego inflating. We weave amid giant Myrtle Beech and Man Fern. The ancient flora grows huge and green. The dense humidity gives depth to the aura.
We eat lunch, fish and chips, in the midst of this ancient place. It is amusing. An English dish, served in the least English of landscapes, as far from England as possible. Another flat white. At the café work five staff. In the town live five people. Most are not local. I wonder how it comes to be.
We take the cable ferry. The forest is now gone. It will not be forgotten.
“Many things in Western Tasmania are worth words on a page. They are all superseded by Ocean Beach.”
We are running low on petrol. Zeehan. This could be a film. Here the apocalypse has happened. A lone man stares from the porch of a house. He does not move, eyes following us as we amble.
The town is old. The paint peels from the tin roofed houses. The striking town hall, lathered in pastel tones, stands clear from the rest. The gas station is empty, with automatic payment.
Still, we see no people. No cars. No pets.
There is no tumble weed.
Ocean Beach. Many things in Western Tasmania are worth words on a page. Mining history, human desire to survive, the endless serpentine tarmac and glorious forests. They are all superseded by Ocean Beach.
We make our way toward the ocean’s edge. Between us and it lies a pine forest built on sand. It is carpeted with needles. The ground firm but sandy. The fun is incredible. We twist through the trees toward the dunes.
They are small, rolling, stupendously soft and filled with grass. We fight to keep moving. The sweat beads on my forehead. The ground tugs continuously at the wheels. Constantly we are on the edge of crashing. The grin spreads wide across our faces.
The sights of nature never cease to amaze. To the north and south, a crisp golden, damp perfection. Sea clouds coat the mountains, the sun touching us. We slide, we crash. We push the limits of our bravery, pulling speed runs. An hour disappears.
An abandoned car sits below the small, sandy cliff. A stream runs through it. It is not new. The earth has begun its reclamation. The weak jokes run wild, feeding off our excitement. For five kilometres in each direction there is no one.
We wash the salt from our steeds with the local police. A fuchsia sunset bursts across the harbour, reflecting in the windows. It is witnessed sat on the end of a creaky wooden dock. The mosquitos buzz. The air is still and void of sound.
We leave for Jindabyne late. The Alpine Way lies before us. A perfect road through a wilderness zone. The trees grow tall, holding hands above the road. Fauna is abundant. Dusk has arrived, birds dart wildly below the canopy. Flashes of colour scrape the tops of our heads.
The sign reads Siberia. We pass through a pocket of bitterly cold air. A full sized Roo is in the corner of my eye. It darts from the undergrowth. I swerve and squeeze the brake. Our collision is imminent and definite. The Eastern Grey brakes too. His feet scrabble for grip on the tarmac. They find none. He slides. He crashes. The scene unfolds in the mirror.
He bounds up from the incident. Behind me Chris brakes hard. There is centimetres between them. The kangaroo leaves quieter than he came in.
Tom Groggin. A local spot. The forest is laced with dirt roads. The Murray has gorged itself on snowmelt. The map shows a crossing. Today the map is lying. Roos laze between the gums soaking in the mid-day sun.
The river pounds along, sloshing at the banks, hiding the bed beneath. It’s depth is vague; borderline dangerous. We prod the water with sticks but think better of it. A small trail, barely a human wide leads along the bank. It looks to promise better things. All it reveals is a Tiger Snake, lethargic in the mild weather.
We try each track and crossing. Some are mapped, others are not. Each time the Murray blocks our path. The last crossing has potential. The flow is rapid. The depth questionable but hope is high. We eat hamburgers. We drink Iced Coffee.
The atmosphere is serene. We are far from other people. There are no cars here.
Water floods my boots. Clouds blanket the sky. The icy water curls my toes as I wade inward. The flow is strong, tugging at my legs, pushing my feet over rounded rocks. I survey the water, ripples in the surface flicker by.
It’s difficult to judge from the middle of the river. The water laps just below my waist. My line choice was poor. I turn back, each stride becomes more precarious. Chris shouts advice from the bank. I lose my balance and struggle to stay upright. A fight with the Murray was is ill advised.
“Move to your right, it looks higher”
“I can’t bloody move Chris”
The crossing is not bike friendly.
The best trail of the trip. The water forced us to find a new path. We stumble onto a freshly groomed trail. The soil is sandy, freshly turned and prime. The sunlight darts through the gum canopy, shards of light striking the ground. A digger driver has crafted perfect jumps. Every 100m is a slice of joy.
It could not be more perfect. That driver with his bulldozer is a god.
We chase for more than 20 minutes, fluttering on the edges of our ability, fighting the soft citrine soil, sliding and tucking, grinning and sweating. Every corner has three glorious skid marks. The trail weaves toward to the valley floor. This is heaven on a bike. Every moment is glorious.
We catch glimpses through the thick Eucalyptus and huge ferns. Mountains. Empty, untouched, inviting.
A lookout point gives a window into the wilderness zone. Burnt Mountain ash coats the landscape. Beneath the blackened trunk saplings stretch the sky. Beyond the treeline, the crumbly, raw rock stands proud. In both directions, far from the reaches of our eyes, are mountains and forest. A bird makes noise. Another responds.
A gentle breeze brings the leaves to life. The afternoon sun glows on the rock.
Olsen chose a great spot from which to look.
The day ends by a beach on Lake Jindabyne. The sun sets in a dramatic light show. We drink beer. A kangaroo’s footprint is embedded in the wet sand.
“Ahhh, you’re gonna be in the Blue Mountains? Sunny Corner is the place to go and ride.”
The weather forecasters are predicting an early spring heat wave. Fire risk is high. The sun even higher. We ride west of Mount Victoria. The traffic is dense, cars, trucks and road works block the way. The heat beats down on us.
Pine Trees grow tall and straight, uniform in every way. Endless rows are painted over the hills as far as the eye can see. Distinct and abrupt, the smell of pine is layered amongst sweat, dust and heat. Trails run everywhere, big, small, open. Orange soil, shale like rock. Pine needles carpet the ground.
Our only purpose is to ride. We see no people, hear no cars. Left, right, turn after turn. We need no maps here. The freedom is impeccable, but something is missing. The heat a touch oppressive, the sense of lost is removed. We don’t know where we are, but we are never lost. The trails are perfect. There is nothing about which to moan, yet something is missing. After all the wilderness, the human touch feels wrong.
In one day we barely scratch the surface. We yearn to take the trails others don’t, but here, all the trails are always taken. The riding is superb. The adventure is not.
The electronic mercury shows 42. Sweat runs between shoulder blades. Speed is no cooling method. We look for something more. A lake, a swim, relief.
We strip, we float. Magical. Gentle hills rise either side, a dam sleeps at one end. Children splash and look confused at the bikes. Large, dusty and different. A kayaker ambles past, ducks stare aimlessly. A gentle breeze ripples the surface. Horses hide beneath the shade of a lone gum tree.
Our trip is all but done. We soak our kit. It dries within 30 minutes. The heat is wrong.
Australia was terrific.
Our trip in Australia barely scratched the surface of each area, but it showed us just how incredible the country is. Some of the most fantastic, wild landscapes we’ve witnessed were found in Australia’s gum forests and as a country it’s so much more than the outback.
We also need to thanks all of that housed us, fed and watered us with gin. Allan Roark for the guidance, Q and Paul, Craig McGregor, Sascha Osler and the Cater Family. We are extremely grateful. Lastly, thanks to Bike Round Oz for their bikes, kit and advice.