After yesterday’s effort, we were much more conservative in our ambitions for Stage Five to Bracknell. The guidebook promised just 36km of cycling, but warned of a long climb into Cluan Tiers and a rough descent to Myrtle Creek along the way. We quickly abandoned any thoughts of an early get-away. Although we were the early risers of the park, our pack-up speed remains agonisingly slow. And Quamby Corner caravan park proved to be quite the spot for socialising. We chatted with other campers, sharing stories of our travels, comparing bike rides and admiring each others’ set-ups. Sally and Gerard won our hearts, bringing us a great coffee and showing us their amazing caravan and custom-built pantec full of motor bikes and other impressive toys.
In stark contrast to yesterday, Stage Five started with a downhill and downwind run on bitumen, and we effortlessly sailed through our first seven kilometres. We then turned onto a dirt road and started heading uphill into the Cluan Tiers forest. Our expectations of another long hard slog uphill were proven wrong, and the climb was steady and manageable, with just a few sharper pinches to keep the heart rate up. We had our first taste of Tassie drizzle, which was just wet enough to have us reaching for arm warmers and gilets to keep out the high country chill.
Another 12km upwards, and after 500 metres of climbing, we topped out at our highest point for the day. Kim’s downhill run came to a rapid halt when he spotted a spiky creature on the side of the road. Donquita was abandoned on the gravel, and the poor echidna’s peace was shattered by Kim’s multiple photo shots from all angles.
We continued down the road, quickly losing the elevation we had so recently gained and keeping a sharp lookout for the next turn. Neither of us were keen to risk missing a trail marker and having to backtrack uphill. There were a few nervous minutes as the track became narrow and more overgrown, but it then opened out onto a more defined road that tracked along the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley far below.
The ride into Myrtle Gully started down a rough but very enjoyable track, with the descent progressively becoming steeper and rougher until we needed to lift our bikes over rockfalls, through deep muddy sections and over fallen trees. The trail passed an old timber mill and continued sharply downwards, levelling out as it hit the bitumen near the turnoff to Liffey. We are tentative about the Tasmanian high country weather, and the rain, wind and grey skies were suggesting to us that the great outdoors was no place for Far North Queenslanders. The Liffey School House, with its promise of a kitchen and fireplace, seemed like a much better option, even though it would mean a relatively easy day of just over 30km.
The School House sits on the side of a hill and it felt decadent to enjoy our lunch break on the enclosed verandah out of the howling wind. Over lunch, we re-checked our options for the next stage, while the weather outside settled into a blue sky afternoon and the wind dropped down to gentle breeze. We decided to move on to the campground at Bracknell which marked the official end of Stage Five, hoping that the fine weather would continue. The tailwind made short work of the seven kilometre ride to Bracknell and we soon found the camping area on the bank of the Liffey River just as the rain started to drizzle down. After an easier day of riding, we were content with a quick dip in the chilly river and a relaxed afternoon in a picnic shelter, readying ourselves for a big day out on Stage Six tomorrow.
(5 February 2017)