Saturday, 24 October 2015

Fatbiking in the Arthur Pieman

I set off with a plan ...

The plan was to head up to the North West (Arthur River), go for a quick ride somewhere just to test out the bike on day one, and then head south from Temma towards Arthur River for a proper ride the next day.

As with most of my plans, it failed the moment it hit reality and I saw what was on offer (ride-wise) at Arthur River ...

So instead of heading south from Temma, I spent three days riding the trails around Arthur River instead.

Now, this introduction is important because it explains a few points as to why I may have done a few things wrong.

Firstly - I hadn't really done any planning for riding around Arthur River other than quickly checking out the land tenure of the area on (which seemed to indicate that it was all reserved area between the highway and the beach other than a few private patches that I could avoid) and that there as a continuous track on google earth along most of the coast.

On the first morning, I was also fortunate enough to meet one of the local rangers as I was heading out for my first ride, so I asked him if I could "ride from here [Arthur River] to West Point".

What happened at that point was what we'll call a miscommunication.

The ranger considered my question thoughtfully and started to talk about "if I went here, and went there and followed this trail, then yes, I probably could".

What went through my mind was "Hmmm - he's mentioning lots of trail names and places that I've never heard of - I probably should know these - he must be talking about those trails I saw along the coast on google earth ... and he just said that I could ride them ... AWESOME".

This was all wrong, but I heard what I wanted to hear.  That's the honest truth.

Having now got home and actually spent the time to read up a lot more on where you can and can't go on the parks website - it turns out that I went down a few tracks that are closed to vehicles (but according to the FAQ on the area, are open to walkers).  I do feel guilty about that, and encourage you not to follow, but in my defence - I probably walked most of those trails anyway.

So, on the first day I basically rode a series of trails along the coast from Arthur River up to West Point Reserve, with a detour up to the Bluff Hill Lighthouse.  I won't write much about this because when I rode them I thought that the private coastal reserve stopped on the inland side of the trail (have a look at listmap with the State Aerial imagery and Land Tenure layer showing and you'll see what I mean) but I now believe it isn't as clear cut as that, and on that basis I recommend you just don't go here unless you ask the ranger (with a map in hand) and he or she says "Yep, go for it".

The section from Bluff Hill Point to West Point is open at the southern and northern ends to four wheel drive vehicles (with permit at the southern end), but shut to them in the middle.  Again, it is open to walkers, and with an extremely strong wind at my back, it made an awesome ride.

The ride back along the highway (and into that wind) ... well that wasn't so fun, and if you think I am making this wind seem stronger than it was, when I got back to my camp, which was in a nice sheltered tree area, I still found my tent (with all my heavy gear in it and which was pegged down) blown down and several metres away from where I pitched it ..

Tent - saved by the trees.
It should be in that clear patch in front of my car.
Day 2, and the wind had died down a lot, and so I drove down to Nelson's Bay and from there cycled south around Sarah Rocks and Couta Rocks and onwards to Temma.

This coastline was as amazing as the day before, albeit that I did spend some long periods from about Rebecca Lagoon south pushing my bike along soft, steep sand (it was getting towards high tide and may have been ridable at lower tide).

I continued south to Darty's Corner (just to get a taste of the South Cape Track) before turning around and mostly following the road back to Nelson's Bay.

Except ... I didn't go into Nelson's Bay when I got to the junction because with a following wind and making such good time I decided to continue on to North Bullock Hill Track (well signed from the highway) and followed this down to the beach, before turning south again and riding down to Sundown Creek where you connect onto the end of Nelson Bay road and an easy ride back to the car.

Bullock Hill Track

Bullock Hill Track

Bullock Hill Track

Bullock Hill Track - impassable to vehicles at beach

Arthur Beach Track

Arthur Beach Track

Arthur Beach Track

Arthur Beach Track - Sundown Point

As far as I can tell, other than a spot or two where I came to a junction and took the wrong turn (there were never any track signs) all of this loop is open to 4WD vehicles (with permits) and of course walkers.

Day 3, and it was time to go home, but firstly I thought I'd head out and do a quick morning ride along some seasonally (summer) open inland trails inland along the "Dam Track" which starts near the Prickly Wattle campground south of Arthur River (the start of the track is actually an unsigned green waste site).

I'm conflicted over this ride.  The initial route that I followed out to what I had hoped would be a scenic upper bend in the Arthur River was to be honest an 'OK', but not exciting, ride and the views out to the river were poor (some bush bashing may have got me to a better spot).

View to Arthur River.
But then I continued on towards the dam and it got fun with a fast, steep descent followed by a very steep climb back up to the dam, and the dam itself was lovely ...

Which is where I get really conflicted ... you see I continued on past the dam and found myself on an amazing track with deep puddles and ruts, amazing wildflowers and it was just short, sharp, fun, muddy riding ...

Problem is, now that I've got home, I see that this section of the track is classified as only open to management vehicles.


I've ridden lots of places in Tasmania, and the world, and I've seen both good and bad trails.

In this context, I'd rate the trails I rode in the North West as some of the best and most enjoyable rough, remote riding trails I've ridden in my life.

They were just awesome, and I hope that once I've had time to talk to Parks and Wildlife to see what areas they may (or may not) allow us cyclists to ride, I'll hopefully get some of these trails up on for others to follow.

In the meantime (and take this seriously) you, unlike me, now have the benefit of my knowledge.

This area has lots of sensitive aboriginal history.  You can walk anywhere you want (except private property) according to the parks and wildlife website, so there is a way of exploring this area legally.

I found the rangers at Arthur River really helpful in suggesting places I could ride (I just needed a better map) and so if you do want to head up there, I'd suggest you call them or make their ranger station your first point of call.

Now that's a plan.