Monday, 27 December 2010

Derby: There's Hills in them there hills.

Absolutely exhausted at the Trig point on Rattler Hill
I cycled away from Derby Park fully expecting to be back there in four, at most five, hours.  I returned just shy of six hours, feeling absolutely  gutted.  Today I learnt that’s there’s hills in them there hills.

But back to the beginning, I was so confident of my ability to get around the Blue Dragon Day 1 course in a reasonable time, that I wasn’t even bothered when I realised about 500 metres from my car that I had forgot to refill my water bottle.  I figured there’d be plenty of rivers to fill up with, so I just sauntered through town, over the bridge and took the right turn down Mascot Road.

I was also completely oblivious at this point that I was doing the course the wrong way round, though I did on several occasions think to myself that the circuit would have been more fun in reverse.  I only discovered this two days later.

Anyway, after a bit of an uphill warm up, the road soon turned down hill, and other than a few near misses with cars and the voluminous dust clouds behind them, it was a great little ride along the road to Ringarooma River Bridge.
Mascot Road

Just after a second smaller bridge, about 200m further down the road, a little dirt road beckoned me off to the left and what followed was kilometres of bliss, with the odd scratch of two.  The path was initially surrounded by flowers, but then not far in the road heads up hill to the right past a “Private Property”sign and an obvious and inviting path continues on straight ahead alongside the river.


The next few kilometres were all narrow single track wending through remnant patches of myrtle forest, man ferns, and also eucalypt forest and even some grasslands.  The river to my left was the only constant, other than the almost annoying heavy overgrowth which kept catching my handlebars, face, arms, legs … did I mention it was scratchy?

Yea, slightly overgrown in places.

Not really a struggle to enjoy this ride.


Did I mention the delicious track?

View from my water bottle as it was filled. DON'T DRINK THE WATER.  Trust me.

This trail just had everything.

I confess to slipping back a few gears and just enjoying this section for what it was.  I even stopped and went down and filled up my waterbottle in the river which turned out to be a mistake as the water tasted warm and foul.   

Unfortunately all good things come to an end, and at the farthest point from the road, my little singletrack trail dropped out onto a slightly more substantial trail, which after about another kilometer turned into a substantial road which actually required me to put in some effort to move the bike along as it started to head gently uphill. Fortunately it wasn't long after this that I hit some bitumen, whipped past a Chinese Memorial and found myself at a seven way junction, where of course I went the wrong way, namely straight out onto the highway and hence had to back track, though fortunately only a few hundred metres.

I followed a small road out around the golf course, as I had been told last night that you could actually follow the Blue Dragon route up into the bush, and that it was in fact the best bit of the days ride, but I found myself in someone’s back yard, well actually two people’s backyards, and with no obvious route to follow I turned around and decided to return to Plan A, which was to follow the power lines further along the road.

Looking back now, I’m thinking that maybe if I had just perservered I might have saved myself an awful lot of pain.

Returning to the main highway and heading off towards Weldborough, the power line track was pretty easy to spot, as it started just where the power lines headed off from the road.  Other than the amusement of seeing some form of power cable randomly appearing in the road, my first impressions of this track was that it was nice and wide, but unnecessarily steep.  Fortunately that quickly passed (it was mainly brought on by the sight of the less steep Weldborough road below me) and the track actually turned into a real gem being easy to ride, open, and surrounded by some beautiful forest.  I was having so much fun, I wasn't even put out by the last little steep hill that I had to push up before emerging next to a giant cable coil.

Blissful riding

Beautiful forest

Even some man made interest.

I remember taking a picture and patting myself on the back for such a fine route choice.  If only I’d known.   

Thinking from here that it was just a quick saunter around a plantation to link back into the Blue Dragon Trail, I was a bit shocked as the trail plummeted steeply down, then rose steeply back up, then down, and up … 

The gradients were mind breaking

The trail was so steep that it felt almost vertical and was completely unridable (for me), and each of the ascents rose 50-100 metres vertically, before just as swiftly giving it all up again.  I think there were four or five of these monsters and I must have gained and lost nearly 400 metres in height to move forward less than a few hundred metres.  The very last hill was the worst of all, and it took me nearly 10 minutes to move forward just 200 metres.  It was on this hill that I finally saw a trail heading off to the right, which I followed to get onto my access trail, and I swear this bit of the trail was so steep that the bike seat was resting on my should as I pushed it up the hill.
 
It was with great relief that after sidling around a plantation I finally dropped back out onto the "official trail".   
I was however pretty tuckered out, and somewhat daunted when I checked my GPS and saw how far I still had to go.  I also did an inveontory and realized I only had 2 muesli bars, my Ringarooma water, a very yucky tasting energy bar and one bottle of powerade to get me there.

However, once back on the trail things started looking up, the first section of road was again surrounded by these purple flowers, I’m sure they‘re introduced, but god they’re pretty.  This road eventually dumped out onto a slightly larger road, where I turned left and after a slight initial uphill climb, I followed this road down to another junction onto what look liked a blue metal road, but wasn’t, on my right.  This was a fast, furious descent.  In fact it was a bit too fast as I whipped passed the innocuous track that I was supposed to follow into the pine plantation, only saving myself from further hurt by luckily checking my GPS and realising I had to turn around and retrace my route back uphill for about 500 metres.

The section through the pines was overgrown, and the track abused by motorbike riders, so it was cool, but not brilliant until dropping down beside a gorgeous creek which I stopped at whilst crossing and finally got some water which tasted good.  Unfortunately I over consumed and as the trail turned fairly sharply upwards I found myself feeling a tad nauseous, and pushing a lot more sections than I would have hopped.  I also realised about here that I was in pretty bad shape energy wise.

Perfect water and rest stop
 
The track however was in brilliant shape, it wended up past a few old grandfather trees emerging out of the rainforest under-storey, before looping round to the left  and emerging into more open forest and plantations as the track continued ever upwards to the sky.   
 
Eventually there was a it of a downhill spin, and quite a few junctions (thank god for my GPS) before the trail emerged out onto a huge quarry on Paris Dam Road.  It was a bit depressing to see a sign pointing to Weldborough, just 4kms away.  I’d been riding for 3 hours.

Proceeding straight across Paris Dam Road I headed up what looked like an inviting track, but I realised five minutes later that I had taken a wrong turn and that I should have gone along a less substantial track.

The official track was another nice piece of disused plantation trail, and was fairly flat for the main part until just before emerging out near a little dam (Ma Mon Chin Dam) where, despite my misgivings, I refilled my water bottle before continuing on.

The next section of the road just blurs into pain.  I remember the first bit which was uphill, but rideable, and I was actually feeling pretty good, but then it emerged out onto a more significant road before immediately turning straight up a steep hill alongside a pine plantation.  This was the section that knocked the fight out of me.  At one stage I got so light headed that I almost passed out, and I was reduced to pushing my bike 20 steps at a time then resting.  Even when the trail flattened out a bit my legs just had no energy and I pretty much pushed nearly all the way to the trig point, only really managing to ride the last 100 metres there.  I took the obligatory photos, sent Jacinta a few text messages, and ate my last muesli bar and drank some powerade.  I think it was 4.30pm.  A bit late for lunch.

So pretty, but so stuffed I couldn't really appreciate it.

Some of the 360 degree views from Trig Point.
It was only later when reading the route notes on the Blue Dragon race that it suddenly clicked that this was the way down, not up.
Praying that the track was mainly down hill, and getting pretty cold, I continued off along the trail.  I think I glimpsed Willem and Robby from last night camped off the trail at one point though when I got closer, I couldn't see them, just their tyre marks in the mud.  The first kilometre was as much up as down and I just gave up at each small incline and pushed.  I really was in survival mode.

Cleared road - bonus!
Thankfully the track started to turn downhill soon thereafter. and other than a few accidental detours at some junctions, I actually enjoyed most of the descent as I dodged rocks, washouts, log litter and various other traps for the unwary.

The trail wove down through mainly quiet roads, and some of the riding was just pure joy.  I almost lost it in one washout just before coming to the dam, which was a pleasure to cycle along, and I even enjoyed the last little uphill section from the dam before a mad descent back into Derby.


Ah well, we are on Forestry Roads after all.

I recall thinking here, wouldn't it be better to have come up this way?

Cascade Dam

A last lovely piece of trail near the dam.

Enjoying the last climb, just up from the dam.

All up today was simply some of the best mountain bike trails I’ve ridden in Tasmania, and combined with the Blue Tier Descent yesterday this area is head and shoulders above anywhere else I’ve yet ridden.  

Despite my sore legs, scratched body and aching back I’m simply in love with this place and just want to spend some more time exploring them there hills … What's more now that I know I went around in the wrong direction, well I just gotta come back and do it the right way around.

The only problem is I have no brake pads left after the last two days efforts ...

View Route (Google Earth)

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