Sunday, 30 December 2012

Expanding their horizons ...

So I took Kim and the kids for a drive around the far north west today ... seldom visited places well off the main tourist trail.

Just near Temma, Markus piped up from the back seat asking if he could use Google Earth on my iPhone.

Pleased that he was taking an interest in the area we were going through I said sure.

Five minutes later, I heard a sigh and, on enquiry about the loud sigh, Markus replied me that he'd just lost internet connection.  I asked him what he was looking at (thinking that I might be able to fill in a few blanks for him)....

Turns out I'd dragged him to the far end of the State and he was using Google Earth to look at his house back down at Carlton.

15 minutes later ...


I enjoyed the drive, but next year I think I'll just take them to the local beach and buy them a new game for their Xbox 360.


Green's Beach, Marrawah

Just because we could ... a short paddle out from Green's Beach, Marrawah ...












Saturday, 29 December 2012

Bully

Probably one of the only disappointments of our Christmas Trip was that there were a few  'older kids' that acted like real bullies in the playground at our campsite ... you know those big kids that kicked all the smaller kids off the trampoline so that they could show off and do 'special tricks'.

I took my spy camera over one night and captured this one in action ...


or click here to open it in YouTube if it doesn't work.

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Nut

Kim and I went for a ride out around Rocky Cape National Park this morning.  We just set off from the cafe at the junction and cycled out to the Lighthouse and back ... a fairly short 12km out and back trip.


Kim got very excited when we got out to the lighthouse as she swore she could see the nut from where we were ...

Kim going to great lengths to get a photo of the Nut
Going through her photos after we got back, I finally found out what she was so excited about ...

Kim's Nut
Want my opinion ... this is the only nut up on the Northwest Coast ...

Steph paddling out to the Nut

I hope you weren't expecting to see a picture of Kim there ... that would be rude!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Ah, the sun ...

It was a split second decision ... we were out playing in the surf in my packraft when a wave crashed in and we went over.   I saw Markus caught up under the raft struggling to get out from underneath it.  I also saw my hat and Oakley Sunglasses sinking below the surface in the opposite direction...

Do I save Kim's only male child or my Oakley Sunglasses?

I mean really ... is that worth a pair of $250 sunglasses?
It was a tough call.

Luckily for Kim I wanted an excuse to buy myself some new sunglasses, so I saved the kid.

If anyone finds a pair of Oakley's at Edgcumbe Beach ... enjoy.

Holidays ...

After a five hour mercy dash down to Corinna to retrieve my bike, it was time to finally put the feet up and begin the second part of this holiday ... a weeks camping at Crayfish Creek with Steph, Kim and the monsters ...

Steph, putting the feet up and relaxing ...

Exploring various ways to kill off monsters ...

I've heard burying them works ...

Giving them dangerous toys perhaps?
Just kidding, we love them really ...



Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas

I had planned on spending Christmas on the remote West Coast cycling from Sandy Cape to Arthurs River.

My mother had even given me a can of Turkey Spam and some Christmas decorations to take with me so I could celebrate a little bit of Christmas ... even if I was by myself.

Seriously ... Turkey Spam exists
However, due to (a) everything in Wynyard being shut, except the BWS bottleshop, and (b) my having left my fuel for my fuel stove back with my bike in Corrina ... my Christmas lunch consisted of Turkey Spam and four cans of Bourbon and Coke.

Thankfully Stephan drove up that afternoon to save me with something a little more substantial for dinner.

A Christmas I won't soon forget.

Monday, 24 December 2012

West Coast Day 3 - Corinna

There's actually a delicious excitement to be had inside moments of great uncertainty.

I knew where I was (stuck on the West Coast with a flat, unrepairable tyre) and I knew a very unlikely series of events had to occur for me to get from where I was to where I needed to be (roughly defined as somewhere on the North West coast by Boxing Day) and the feeling of just not knowing how I was going to pull that off, combined with the absolute certainty that I would somehow pull it off ... well it was just delicious.

However, having said that, I do confess that my heart was in my mouth as I ran the last 50 metres down to the Pieman River(still pushing my fully loaded bicycle) trying frantically to catch a glimpse of the Arcadia II cruise boat ...

Arcadia II - Source: corinna.com.au

And there it was, just pulling into the jetty.

You can imagine how happy I was about that (noting that the cruise didn't run on Xmas day meaning that if I missed today's cruise my options would have been to stay at Pieman Heads for two days hoping I could get a lift out on Boxing Day or attempt to packraft the 18kms up the Pieman River to Corinna). Neither option seemed particularly attractive.

I immediately jumped up on a big rock and flapped my bright yellow riding jacket around hoping they'd see me, but they didn't respond and I quickly realised that even if they did my best option was to get back across to the other side of the river.  Thus began one of the fastest inflation's of a packraft in packrafting history. 

I would say I was on the water paddling towards the other side in under ten minutes (with bike on), and pulled up alongside the Arcadia II not 10 minutes after that.

Even better for me (but only in hindsight) as I tried to climb out of the raft, my right calf cramped severely, and who should be walking past but the captain of the Arcadia II.  He couldn't help but take pity on me at that point as I squirmed and flopped about in agony unable to disentangle myself from the bike and packraft, and thus he not only offered to give me the required lift out of there, he helped me get all my gear on board.

It turned out that they were actually there until 1pm to give people time to walk out to the beach, so the captain told me to help myself to coffee and biscuits downstairs, get changed into some warm clothes and just make myself at home.

And that's exactly what I did.

My original adventure was over, but I was already several steps down the path of my new adventure, which I'll title "What the heck next?".

I spent the next hour or so talking to the few tourists that were on board, and also found out from the Captain that there was another cyclist due in at Pieman Heads today who was cycling my route in reverse.  It would have been good to have met another cyclist out there.

We eventually headed back off up the river, and a couple on board offered to give me a lift down to Strahan, but although tempted to take their offer, it was kind of the wrong direction, and they couldn't take my bike.




It was however still tempting as you have to understand that there is very little traffic through Corinna, and I was battling a fundamental problem that if I didn't get out today, then I'd be unlikely to get out tomorrow as it was Christmas.

That's where the staff at Corinna Lodge came to my rescue.  Seriously I can't give these guys enough kudos.  Not only did they get me out of there on their cruise boat (no charge), they let me use their land line to call Kim and tell her what had happened, they held a room for me for two nights in case I couldn't get out, they phoned around everyone they could think of to try and get me a lift out to at least Warratah, and they even put posters out on their front door appealing for passing tourists to give me a lift out of there so "I could get back to be with my wife for Christmas".

What was I doing whilst all this was going on?

Running around knocking on every car door?   Madly planning alternative strategies?  Nope, I was sitting in their restaurant drinking free coffee and swapping cycling stories with an Israeli guy who was cycle touring around Tasmania.

Israeli Man's bicycle ... nearly 50kgs of gear.
Yep, panicking big time.

An hour or so after I arrived, I met a couple reading my "save me" poster, so I introduced myself as the stranded individual and they offered to take me out to Burnie in an hour or so ... but they could only take me, not my bike.

It was a hard decision (I needed another cup of coffee with my Israeli friend who I was still kind of hoping might lend me the spare tyre he was carrying) but in the end I decided that I needed to take the lift as it was likely be my only option out of there before Christmas  (it was getting along to 5pm by this stage).

Again, the staff there came to my rescue allowing me to store my bike near the staff quarters and just generally providing the kind of service that you wish places in Tasmania would provide.  I was in no position to thank them then, but I intend to get back there some time and do so.

Anyway, a little after 7pm, I finally pulled into Wynyard (turns out my saviours were actually heading there and that suited me as well as Burnie) and after some profuse thank you's I wandered up the road to see if I could get a room in the Wharf Hotel Wynyard which had sponsored the recent Bluff to Bluff paddle (my idea of giving something back).

The last little twist to my tale comes as we arrived in Wynyard: The Christmas Eve Parade has just started and I of course have to get across the road in the middle of the parade.


So, I'm wandering along trying to think how to do this when one of the cars stops and a gap opens up in front of it, thinking "here's my chance" I start to quickly duck across the road and of course just as I get half way across, the guy in the car (looking sideways to the crowd) drops the accelerator and does a great big burn out straight towards me ...

To be killed in a Christmas Parade in Wynyard after all that ... now that would be depressing.

Fortunately all that was injured was my pride, and a slight bruise where he clipped me ... and that was my West Coast Trip.

West Coast Day 3 - The Pieman

As I climbed into my tent last night, I had only two thoughts on my mind - an early exit from this trip and the cold can of coke that would be my compensation for my failure when I got to Corinna.

Time to hang up the boots at Pieman Heads?
The Gumboot Tree at Pieman Heads.
However it's amazing what with a nights rest can do, and my determination to see this ride through returned with a vengeance this morning, so that cold can of coke would have to wait.  The next two days were what I had come here for and I wasn't going to give them up just because I felt a little sore, dehydrated and tired.

I packed up camp and cycled into the small shack community at Pieman Heads hoping to find a public water tank, or at least someone who might give me some water, but all the houses were empty (there is however a public drop toilet where the ferry lands, just in case anyone else uses these notes in the future). 

Knowing from my previous trip down this way that there were a couple of small streams a few kilometres down the track on the other side of the river, I wasn't too worried about the lack of water and so headed back to the beach and prepared myself for what to me was the biggest unknown of this trip ... could I get across the Pieman River?

Now, one of the most obvious things to have done before coming on a trip like this would have been to practice attaching my bike to my packraft and paddling with it, but that didn't seem like much fun to me, so instead I just watched a couple of excellent you tube videos by Steve Fassbinger displaying different methods of attaching a bike to a packraft and decided it didn't look to hard and that I'd figure out how to do it when I got to Pieman Heads.

And so here I was - at Pieman Heads and it was time to attach the Bike and all my gear to the packraft ...  voila ... and it only took a few minutes to do.

Ta daa ...
Me, a bike, all my gear, a 250 metre water crossing, and a packraft that only needs to get one puncture and it would sink ... what could go wrong? 

Fortunately I was able to postpone answering that question as one of the 4WD guys I had met yesterday pulled up in his vehicle after an unsuccessful morning checking his cray pots, and after a bit of a chat he offered that I could come up to his shack and refill my water containers which was an offer to good to refuse.

We got to talking, like you do, and found that this guy had traveled the tracks north of here several times (though not for eight years) and as such he was a font of useful knowledge including that there were three creeks between here and Interview River which would be running with fresh water.  Interview River, which I had expected to be like the Henty River, was actually nearly as big as the Pieman at the mouth and the water was therefore tidal and salty and the river only passable on low time right at the mouth.

He also predicted that my chances of getting to Temma were about zero as his experience was that the sand dunes would be impassable and I'd be pushing most of the way.  Fortunately, when I told him my strategy was to cycle along the beach at low tide, he revised his opinion on my success to "that might work, it just might".

That was enough for me, and before he could psych me out any further, I (half) joked that he'd probably see me cycling back past his shack in a few hours defeated, with my tail between my legs, and then set off back down to the beach where I had left my bike and packraft.

Then there was nothing else for it: it was time to cross the Pieman  ...

ready to launch

Yea ... maybe I could improve my packing technique slightly.

... for example ... maybe I could tie on the seat post and bag.

Looking back towards the far bank where I launched from.
Successful landing on the other side.
and almost ready to go, and no I didn't drop my seat over the side,
I just hadn't put it back on yet.

Turned out that the crossing was an absolute doddle (lucky for me) and I was quickly packed on the other side and heading off towards Sandy Cape.

I had walked quite a way up this coast back in January (maybe 6 or 7 kilometres), and it was this walk which had convinced me that this track would be ridable (something which my friend across the river had debunked by telling me that it is good for about 8kms and then goes to sand all the rest of the way). This also meant that I knew I was in for some pretty good riding to start with, well mostly.  There were a few 'rocky' sections ...

There were a few 'rocky' sections.
With only about 40kms to cover today, I was motoring along these early tracks enjoying the combination of decent progress, good intermediate technical riding conditions and gob-smacking views, when, about 6 or so kms north of the river,  I came to what seemed to be just another section of rocky track to get up ...

Half way up the hill, my back tyre exploded.

Or at least that's what it sounded like.

I stopped immediately, assuming that it was just a small (but loud) puncture and that if I let some Stan's run down into the hole and re-inflated the tyre (I had 4 gas canisters, a small bottle of spare Stans Stop Leaks, plus a high volume hand pump for repairs) then I'd be on my way.  It was a hassle, but not the end of the world.

So, I jumped off my bike, and turned the wheel hoping to see where the puncture was ... and I saw this ...






A two centimeter gash right down the side wall of my tyre.

In the next 13 seconds, whilst I may have just seemed to have been standing there staring at an unrepairable tyre, I actually had more thoughts rush through my head than I had in the previous two days, here's a rough summary of what went through my head:

First thought: There isn't anyway that Stan's is going to seal that.

Second thought: Don't worry, that's why you brought a spare inner tube.

Third thought: Nope. that's not going to work either - the tube will just push out of the hole and you'll get a pinch flat.

Fourth thought:  But we've got patches for that.

Fifth thought: (Feeling a bit like Gollum and Smeagol at this stage). Yea, maybe if we had 5 or 10 kms to go to get back to the car, but we've get 60+ kms of possibly some of the hardest and most remote riding in Tasmania between us and Temma, with unknown water sources, and the possibility of seeing no one else the whole way.

Sixth thought: Cool ... let's go, this will make a great blog entry ...


[Pause as the mental wheels turned]

Seventh thought:  ... actually, maybe that doesn't sound so cool.

Eighth thought:  Options then, give me options?


Ninth Thought: We have to fix the tyre, and get back to Pieman Heads and try and get out to Corinna.

Tenth Thought:  It's Christmas tomorrow, we have to get out today, or we'll be here until Boxing day at least.

Eleventh Thought:  Ok, time - what's the time?  11am.  What time does the Cruise boat come ...Umm, I think it leaves at 10am or maybe 10.30am, which means it will be at Pieman heads now ... or in about 30 minutes at the most...   how long will it stay there?  30 minutes? maybe more?

Twelfth Thought:   It's unlikely therefore that we'll get back in time ... but not impossible ... but what about fixing the tyre - that's going to take time.

[again mental pause]

Thirteenth Thought:  F*#k fixing the tyre - RUN!

...  and that's what I did.  It was a bit surreal to go from being on top of the world, on the verge of setting my tyres on 60kms of tracks that I'd spent a year planning to get too, to running back down the track I'd just come along, pushing my bike with a flat tyre  in a total transition time of under one minute.

As I've always said, it's the little things that make or break a trip, and in between ragged gasps as my lungs burned and my legs churned along soft tracks, I kept coming back to one thought ...

If only I hadn't left that spare tyre on the lounge room floor just three short days ago ...

The little things.



Sunday, 23 December 2012

West Coast Day 2: Trial Harbour - Pieman Heads

Today I needed to cover something close to 75kms, by far the longest day of the trip, and I set off confident that if I could get through today, then I could get through this trip.


Now, I had originally planned to start today from Henty River, but after thinking about the logistics of having to pack up the bike, cycle down to the Henty Estuary, unpack and inflate the raft, paddle across the estuary, deflate the raft and pack everything back up again only to then cycle on down to the little Henty River and have to probably repeat this whole process a second time, I decided on a last minute change of plan and got Kim to drop me at Zeehan instead.

Although this avoided 10kms of beaches and two potentially problematic river crossings, it did have a downside in that it added about 10kms to the days total distance, albeit that the first 20kms would now be on roads.

The first kilometre ....
Now I confess that up until the point that I dragged my bike out of the car, I hadn't actually tried to get all of my gear into the bike bags, and there was a bit of last minute juggling to get it all to fit ... as well as a few last minute decisions to leave a few things behind (such as my water filter) to try and cut down on weight and bulk.

However, even with the last minute clean out of gear, I still set off from Zeehan with a pretty hefty weight on the bike.

I wasn't however that worried, and I planned on the first hour being difficult and told myself that I just had to take it steady and get used to the different handling of the bike.

Fully loaded bike ... plus I was carrying a large daypack with all my food and stuff.
Now, if I'd known then what I know now, I probably would have gotten Kim to take me a few more kilometres up the Trial Harbour Road,because it starts going uphill as soon as you leave Zeehan and just keeps going that way for a couple of kilometres and I (rather embarrassingly) found myself needing to stop for a break two-thirds the way up the first hill after a somewhat over-exuberant start.

Oh well, so much for my slow and steady mantra.  Only 80 kms to go ...

Fortunately after the initial ascent, the route became much more undulating, and it turned out to be rather a pleasant section of road to the turn off onto the abandoned Granville Harbour Track (Climies Track).


I had last ridden this track to Granville Harbour almost two years ago to the day, and I don't mind saying that the southern section has deteriorated rather significantly over that time.  The track surface had really washed away leaving a track which is more like a river bed than road.


But my real problem, just a kilometre or so into the track, was that my rear tyre started feeling a bit soft, and a quick check showed that the tyre must have punctured as the pressure had dropped below 20 PSI.

I had a horrible sinking feeling at that moment that with Kim already well on her way back towards Hobart (and with no mobile reception until she got there) that I was about to regret the decision to not bring a spare tube with me (justified on the basis that in all my years or riding I had only ever once blown a tyre and that was when the brake pad had been misplaced and worn through the side of the tyre).

With a bit of nervousness I dug out my pump (which of course was at the bottom of my backpack under all my food and everything else) and pumped the tyre back up to 35 PSI and then tentatively took off along the track, stopping every 100 metres or so to check the tyre and alternatively convincing myself that it was OK, no going flat, no OK, no going flat ... it was only about an hour later that I finally managed to convince myself that it was all OK and that the tyre had successfully resealed itself.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way whilst this was going on, the track surface improved and I began to really enjoy the riding as I made my way towards my first planned rest break for the day at Granite Creek.

Then I crashed.

Crash Site 1
It was a stupid crash.  I was heading down the last hill towards Granite Creek, and I had just noticed a 4WD a ways in front of me and I had been thinking about trying to catch up and overtake it (hey, who wouldn't?).

So I was flying down the hill when suddenly a bee or wasp or something bounces of my chin, goes down my cycling vest and the next thing I feel is a sharp sting right above my heart.

Without thinking I grabbed at the stinging area with my left hand trying to kill whatever was biting me and simultaneously I threw on the (front) brake with my right hand.  The result of these combined actions was me doing my best superman impression as the bike folded under me and I promptly went flying over the handlebars ... except this cyclist ain't no man of steel ...


It hurt, but nothing too serious and I was able to carry on down to Granite Creek, albeit a little slower, for a bit of a break and a clean up.

Granite Creek.   There is a lovely waterfall here.

I knew at this point that I had broken the back of this section and that it was fairly easy riding out to Tasman River where I would rejoin the gravel road to Granville Harbour, so I took the time to explore a few side trails down to the coast and just enjoy the route.

A fairly significant fire has been through the area in the last couple of years.
Coastal side track explorations

The full kit.

The first shack coming off Climies Track
I was only mainly right about the easy riding ... I just didn't know about a few steep climbs between Tasman Creek and Granville Harbour ... nothing horrendous, or even hard, they just weren't expected and that made them feel hard.

Please God, let that be the top.
After what felt like ages, I finally pulled into Granville Harbour and rode around to the far point for a well deserved lunch.

Lunch spot just around from Granville Harbour,
It was then that I realised that it was already 2pm and I was way behind where I thought I would be and I still had the unknown section to Pieman Heads to do.

I was also in for a bit of a nasty surprise as I set off after lunch to find myself cycling, and then pushing, though sections of soft sand ... this wasn't planned, and this was just the first of a few surprise on this section.

I had relied on being able to get regular water refills from creeks right along this track, but as I was to discover many of the creeks in the section just north of Granville Harbour were stagnant, smelly, muddy pools or (further up the coast) tasted brackish and terrible.  I held out refilling my water bottles as long as I could, but eventually I just had to drink, and so I walked up a creek as far as I could when I came down to a beach and filled up there.  It tasted horrible, but it didn't kill me or make me sick.

The other main surprise was the number of people camping along this section of coast.  I had expected a fairly remote section of coastline but I probably passed 10 campsites and as many vehicles on my way up to Pieman Heads.

However, I get ahead of myself.  The real shock of this section were the long sections of soft sand (I couldn't pick those up on google earth and I had expected a track similar to the one from Trial Harbour).  The result of this was that I found myself pushing the bike for kilometre after kilometre, only occasionally being able to jump on and ride short sections of track.  All up I'd guess that I pushed maybe 10kms, although I could have ridden more if I had been less tired or had less weight on the bike.

The early afternoon soon stretched into late afternoon and I realised that this was going to be a very long day indeed.

Fortunately, the area itself was everything I'd hoped for and more with simply stunning coastal vistas and challenging sections of track (when I could ride).







Eventually I emerged out onto Four Mile Beach where I finally found that brackish creek I mentioned and was able to refill my water bottle (I tipped this all out about half way up the beach and refilled at a second creek which tasted better) before setting off on the challenging ride up the beach directly into a strong headwind.

It was a gorgeous ride, despite the wind fighting me the whole way, and I took plenty of opportunities to stop and take some pictures along the way ...













Coming off the beach, the track splits.  It was obvious that most traffic was going around to the left, but there was a landcare sign at the junction saying that the main tack went to the right and so I felt obligated to follow that ... which I did for about a kilometre before deciding enough was enough and turning back around and going the way that everyone else obviously went.

and, oh it was a joy, the track surface was rutted and muddy, but it was ridable all the way out to the headland and beyond as I cycled through this surreal landscape of rock gardens and wallaby grass.


I met a few more people camping out this way, and one couple passed me in their truck (as I was pushing up yet another hill) and came back and offered me a lift to the heads.  I am pleased to say that even at this late stage I still had the willpower to decline their offer.

After what seemed like forever, I finally pushed to the top of one last hill and there below me in the distance was Pieman Heads.  Hooray.


God I was happy.  I was spent, I was sore, but I was so happy.

I jumped on my bike and began to enjoy the freewheeling sensation as I rolled down towards the coastline one last time ...

Then I crashed for the second time.


Ouchy.

This time my front wheel just hit a section of soft sand and before I could register what was happening I was doing my second impersonation of superman for the day, somewhat ironically landing on exactly the same knee as my first crash and thus successfully managing to push a whole lot of dirt and mud into the already open wound.

Somewhat dazed, dehydrated and sore I very carefully cycled down the rest of the hill and realising just how exhausted I was, I decided to not risk any more crashes and ended up pushing my bike most of the last few kilometres around the beach and over the rocks (it was high tide by this stage) to the camp we had stayed at when we kayaked down here back at the beginning of the year.

Fortunately, just as I arrived (the actual camp we stayed at was overgrown so I continued on to the main campground where they have now also removed the toilet) a couple of young guys in a 4WD came past me and stopped for a chat.

I asked them if they knew if there were any public water tanks nearby, and next thing I knew they were emptying out my water bottles and bladders and filling them with crystal clear, cold water from their eski.

I didn't realise how thirsty I was until I drank my entire water bottle in one swig, leaving me to ration my remaining water carefully overnight as there was no other drinking water on this side of the Pieman River.

I finally stumbled into the deserted campground around 8pm and managed to set up camp and make myself some pasta before collapsing into bed.


As I sat eating my dinner I was absolutely convinced that my trip was over.  I was sore, beat up and exhausted, however I took to heart some advice I had read recently on an ultra-endurance athletes blog  ... never decide to give up before you go to bed, leave that decision to the morning.

Things can always look different in the morning.