Needless to say, after yesterday’s effort we slept well, despite the numerous dogfights disturbing the serenity throughout the evening. All were due to one small dog, who thought it was a big dog, and had a less-than-neighbourly approach to other dogs in the park. Stages Seven and Eight promised to be all on good roads and mostly downhill, and we were vaguely confident that the howling wind would work in our favour.
We rode out of the park and immediately remembered that we had descended from the main road to the lakes edge at the very end of yesterday’s ride. We slowly made it back up the hill, despite our protesting legs, and crossed the highway to rejoin the Trail. We found our way around the locked gate on the Hydro Electric Company road, and entered our details in the Trail registration book attached to a stump on the side of the road. This was the first registration book we had seen, as the Tassie Trail organisers are moving to an online registration system. While an online system obviously has benefits, it was nice to be able to read about others using the trail ahead of us. It was the first time I realised that I had been missing the sense of community with other trail users normally experienced on long trails, even though it was from a distance via registration books.
To our dismay, the trail then started uphill. I opted to walk some and ride some, mostly due to my headspace not quite being ready to tackle climbing again on this apparently downhill day. We quickly gained elevation, topping out at the crossing of a flume that fed water into the hydroelecrtric power stations nearby. It was a wonderfully cruisy ride following the flume gently downhill, stopping to admire the views out to Great Lake and the cottages nestled in the hills. It was sparse and windy country, and I could easily to imagine just how cold and inhospitable it would get in winter. Kim wondered aloud what it would be like to have a little shack out here in the wilds of the Tassie high country. I thought he would be lonely.
The dirt road re-joined the bitumen of Lake Highway and we enjoyed a tailwind across Ellis Plains and into Miena. The area of Miena is made up of multitudes of houses perched along a several kilometre stretch on the edge of Great Lake, ranging in standard from rustic to near-opulent. The lakes area is a mecca for fishing, although it was generally deserted when we rolled through. In an amazing effort for us, we had completed Stage Seven before lunch and were ready to keep going.
Stage Eight turned away from Great Lake and immediately onto a well used dirt road towards Bronte Park. The profile promised to be totally downhill, and the first several kilometres didn’t disappoint. We rode into a vast open landscape, ringed by hills with the dirt road disappearing down to the horizon far into the distance. We had to share the road with few cars and trucks, but quickly overlooked this inconvenience in our excitement at effortlessly floating downhill with a tailwind for kilometres.
The trail guide was very clear about bike riders remaining on this main road at the first turnoff taken by the horse trail. The prospect of crossing “very rough untracked bushland”, particularly when deer hunters were also permitted in the area, readily convinced me to continue zooming happily along the road, leaving the rough country to the horses. The bike trail turned off to meet the horse trail when things became more sensible a few kilometres further on. We paused for lunch and immediately attracted the attention of several billion of Tassie’s March flies. To date, most of them don’t have much inclination to bite, but buzz around us in swarms when we stop during the day. We have taken to liberally spraying Aerogard around, hoping they will be momentarily deterred and that we are not just making them angry.
We continued riding on a rougher dirt road through forestry country and past small lakes. It was generally easy riding, and we were looking forward to reaching Bronte Park and celebrating the mid point of our ride with a night inside and a pub dinner. We may have dropped our guard a bit early. Just as the roads were again becoming more civilised and we were anticipating the pub appearing around every corner, the trail abruptly left the formed road and pointed uphill along a faint bush track. We consulted our map and guidebook, debated whether it was really meant for bikes, and stoically decided to remain pure of purpose and go uphill. It was another scrambling push up the hill, over sticks and branches, and along a very faint set of wheel tracks through once boggy country. Just as abruptly, the track veered downhill again and rejoined the road. We are still wondering.
We rolled into Bronte Park in the early afternoon, well pleased with having completed two stages and ready for our big night in. We collected our food drop parcel from the General Store. It had obviously raised the suspicions of the Tassie Customs folk, as the parcel was laced with wads of extra sticky tape and customs stickers. I guess they weren’t in the market for dehydrated food. The evening flew by, aided by beers and a great pub dinner. Halfway there – Dover here we come.
(7 February 2017)