Sunday, 24 February 2013

Derwent Downwind

Who needs the new Playstation 4 when you've got the game play of the Derwent River at your doorstep on a hot, windy Sunday afternoon ...

Hmmm ... there do appear to be a few yachts out there.
Yep, 15kms of downwind fun with nothing between us and Kingston beach but two yacht races, mixed seas and strong wind - lots and lots of wind.

How much wind?

We're talking enough wind to de-mast a yacht ...

... and to make taking a photo from a ski really difficult (so sorry about the poor shots).

Yep, Playstation 4's are for wusses I say (but that's mostly because I'm pretending I don't really, really, really want one).

With the bravado out of the way, the truth is that it was a bit of an overwhelming day.  We just missed getting hit by one yacht which tacked out from behind the blind spot of another and suddenly found itself with an outrigger and a ski sitting right in front of its line with nowhere to go, and there were a few other close encounters besides ... we're talking misses by metres in seas which need a whole lot more than that for any kind of safety margin.

By the time we got to the John Garrow Light we were pretty stressed out (and I was so parched from the constant adrenalin and having nothing to drink that I was drinking sea water before I managed to steal Stephan's drink), but at least we were out of the races with nothing between us and Kingston but wonderful clean seas and beautiful runs ...

I went for one swim just near Kingston beach, but under Stephan's tutelage I also got some of the best connecting runs of my life.

Oh, and apparently my Epic V8 is still taking on a lot of water through the front handle ... just ask Stephan who will soon have to buy a new vehicle due to some emerging rust problem ...  glad it's not my car.

Oops ... a little bit of salt water may be leaking out of my ski.
Unfortunately, just as I am starting to get the excitement of paddling back into my veins, it's time to hang the ski back up, dust off the bike and head across the Tasman to go play ...

Next post should be from the other side of the ditch ...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


Some days I remember to find a moment to step outside of my routine ... and just live.

View back towards Sandy Bay & Mt Wellington from Tranmere
Steph got me out on the water tonight for a short 10km paddle from Sandy Bay across to Tranmere and back.  It was a bit of a slog out, but a fast run back again.  It's also the first time I've ever done that run.

It was so nice to feel the movement of the waves, the dance between boat and sea as I sought the best path, the quick brace when I didn't, and that joyful exultation when I got onto a nice little run and scooted along like a god on water (OK, an ungraceful, slow god, but a god nonetheless).

It was brilliant to feel alive.  And that makes me wonder: what is it that stops me from climbing out of my routine a little more often?

I wish I knew.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wineglass Bay

Here's a funny story ... Or at least it would be if it wasn't true.

Wineglass Bay (from lookout)
You see "Plan A" for today had been a paddle down the South Esk river from Fingal in the pack rafts, but checking the river levels on our drive out here on Saturday it had become pretty obvious that there wasn't enough water in that river to drown an echidna, never mind go rafting.

This hadn't bothered us overly as we were both pretty happy to go explore some of the trails at the northern end of the Douglas Apsley National Park ... either on foot or on bike (I was leaning towards biking, Kim was keen to go for a walk to Heritage Falls).

So, last night we are sitting having dinner at St Mary's Hotel and I look out the window and see three Parks & Wildlife fire trucks drive past heading toward Scamander and so I remark to Kim that there must be a fire to the north ... maybe where we were just riding.   I jump onto the website to see where it is.

What I found was this ...

The fire wasn't to the north. These guys were heading home from fighting a fire at the northern end of the Douglas Apsley National Park ...  a fire which had been burning for nearly two weeks.  Maybe I should have known that seeing as how I get the daily fire status updates sent to me at work.

What's worse ... as I stared at the fire boundary on my iPhone and then looked at the map we had on the table it became obvious that they were right on top of each other.

That's when I saw the kicker in the last line of the fire alert "Douglas Apsley national park remains closed."

... and just like that, plans B through F went up in smoke.

So, that was last night.  This morning we wake up without much of a plan on what to do, and so were happy to be guided by the fact that we were both hungry (me especially having not eaten much of my dinner) there was nowhere to get breakfast in St Mary's, but we knew there was a decent bakery in Bicheno and so off we went (it sort of worked in with the one remaining idea we had of going for a ride along Friendly Beaches anyway).

Over breakfast we both decided we weren't feeling particularly motivated, and Kim suggested that she would be happy just sitting on a beach for an hour or two.

Having brought two books (well six if you include the four I had just downloaded onto my ipad) and three magazines to read over this weekend this sounded ideal to me, so we set off down to Friendly Beaches where we could enjoy the sun, solitude and the beauty of an unspoiled beach ....

Friendly beaches (southern access)
... and we had it all to ourselves.
But ... no ... turns out this wasn't quite what Kim had in mind, so we jump back in the car and drive down to Coles Bay for second breakfast and then onto Sleepy Corner ... surely that would be an ideal place for a lazy lounge, read and snorkel?

Sleepy Corner

... but again ....  no, this also wasn't quite right .... you see, Kim had never actually been to Wineglass Bay, and well ... wouldn't that be a nice beach to go to? (she says oh so sweetly like I might actually have a choice in the decision and this hadn't all been engineered from the start).

It was off to Wineglass Bay ...

I decided to make the best of this situation and so carried my packraft over with intentions of exploring off around the coastline... although when we got there it was too windy to actually use it.

However, embracing the philosophy that life is about making the most of where you are - the unplanned adventures -  I just swam and enjoyed trying to take some weird camera shots instead ...

Looking out to sea  
Wave crashing over my head.
Wave crashing over me sideways
I liked this little water loop from the wave.
Don't try and take pictures of yourself under the water.
It doesn't work, and you get lets of water up your nose.
Whilst I was out playing with my camera, Kim also finally found what she was looking for ...

Kim working on her "Birmingham Tan".
... a beach she could relax on.

And that is how you plan and execute a weekend.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

St Patrick's Head Loop

OK, so maybe I told a little fib in that last blog post.

Maybe travelling all the way up to Scamander just for a one hour ride is a bit of a stupid thing to do.

If you're going to be a sheep ... at least be a cool one.
But what was true about that post was that it was that photo that planted a seed for a destination this weekend, and once I knew where that photo was taken, I was like "Oh, there's that section of the South Esk I want to paddle (didn't happen due to very low water levels), there's the back track from I've been meaning to explore plus there's lots of options in the Douglas Apsley and Freycinet parks" ... so it sounded like a fun place to head for the weekend, and so we did.

After our little sortie around the Winifred Curtis reserve we had lunch up in Scamander and then drove back to the junction where you have to choose to drive up either St Mary's Pass or head down the coast way ... our plan was to do a bit of a circuit around St Patrick's Head taking in some new trails and old.

St Patrick's Head from Irishtown Road.
Well, when I say our plan, I guess I mean my plan, because Kim as usual was just happy to go with the flow.

Our route started with an expected 10km road climb up St Mary's Pass ... which turned out to only be a 7km climb, with the last three kilometres into St Mary's actually being downhill.  What's more, of those 7kms, it's only the first two kms and the last kilometre which actually have any kick in them ... the rest is just a gentle incline and a pleasant way to gain the altitude we needed for this circuit.

Just at the top of the pass there's a little car park and reserve on the right hand side of the road.  We pulled in here for a breather and discovered a little 10 minute walking track out to a viewing platform ... siad walking track also turned out to be a wonderful little section of perfectly ridable single track and to be honest was the nicest section in this whole loop.


This short out and back track ends at a little waterfall (which had no water coming down it) but I'd still recommend it to anyone heading this way on a bike.

After this detour, we just freewheeled into St Mary's, where just as we crossed the little creek in town (next to the public toilet) we turned right up Franks Street and started our next little climb for the day trying (on my third attempt) to find pedalbite.coms "Back Track".  After 500 metres we turned right onto the signed Richardson's Road which we followed for another 2kms, taking what we hoped was the correct turn into the bush (it was the third, and least promising turn, in about half a kilometre but seemed to best match the route notes on pedalbite).

We turned right onto a track just past this obvious pole.
The track backtracked a little bit as it headed off into the bush on what was a lovely, but iffy, trail for a couple of hundred metres until it joined another track coming in from the right and became more obvious as it continued up a hill.

Felt like we were exploring bushland ... track had not seen use for a long time.
At the top of the little hill, it was a short, fun run down until we hit a junction which we followed around to the left as this looked like the main trail.  However, we soon found ourselves riding back uphill, and my being certain from the pedalbite tracks notes that this should be a downhill run, I turned back to the junction and went down the, lesser used, right hand trail ... which was exactly what I expected ... a fun downhill which quickly dropped us out behind someone's house with (what we thought was the Lower German Town Rd) in front of us.

As we cycled around the house to get to the road, a big dog suddenly came charging out at us ... well more precisely at Kim who was behind me.  I only wish I could have got a photo of her face when it caught up with her, but for once in my life I thought I had better be gallant and so I was too busy trying to get between her and the dog so I could kick the stupid thing if it was brave enough to have a go at me and didn't get the photo.  

Fortunately for it (and probably me) it stopped at the property's boundary and we made good our escape.

So a bit fired up on adrenalin we pedaled down 'the road' only to pop out onto the highway to find we were on someone's driveway with a "trespassers prosecuted" sign out on the front gate.


Sorry doggy ... fair enough you were just protecting you patch.  As for fr*#king pedalbite's notes.  Maybe that junction would have been worth mentioning?!?

Putting that behind us, we turned right towards St Mary's again (we had pretty much done a loop back on ourselves coming back out near the top of St Mary's pass) but instead of continuing into town, this time we turned left onto the well signed Irishtown Road towards St Patrick's Head reserve.

This is marked as a no through road ... but this only applies to people in cars or those on bikes who don't like bush bashing.  Neither of which applied to us.

It's a lovely ride along this road, though I think it's slightly uphill most of the way.  If it is the gradient is barely noticeable until you get past the St Patricks Head turnoff (which is on your left) and start the final ascent up towards Blue Gum Lodge.  

It was here, just as we started the descent, that we came across our one and only snake for the day.  A big tiger snake which was dreadfully unhappy about having two cyclists go flying past and decided to show us this was the case by rearing up and looking like it was going to have a go.  We stopped down the road a bit and Kim was shaking like a leaf from adrenalin.  I thought it was funny, but wasn't brave enough to say so.

This happened just before we passed the Blue Gum Lodge junction which is about where the road becomes a steep fast flowing, rocky track  ...

... unless you're Kim and get a flat tyre as soon as we hit the top of the hill.  

Now you have to realise that Kim is still so new to cycling that this was actually her first ever flat tyre.  Faced with this problem, she figured that replacing an inner tube was best done by pushing her bike to me and saying "it needs fixing" at which point she was kind enough to give me the required tools and sat back to let me get on with it.

It was a five minute job and we were quickly on our way back downhill.

Now I've done this particular section before and so knew what to expect, and knowing that, I knew it wasn't much.

I was therefore a little bit excited when I got to the section where I'd had to start bush bashing last time only to find that someone had been through and done some clearing work.  

Unfortunately, the clearing work didn't go very far and before I knew it, we were backing trying to ride through heavily overgrown sections with deep washouts and way too many fallen trees ...

Ah, the joy of bush bashing.
Aha ... someone else had been this way.   Not sure if they made it through.
A little washout along the way,
but all scratchiness must come to an end, and soon we were out onto Davis Gully Road on our way out to Four Mile Creek.

Four Mile Creek.

From there it was another 8kms or so back to the car around the coast (on the main road).  It was pleasant, fairly flat and fast, riding ...  it was also hot.

View along the coast from the road.
It was still good to get back to the car and head up the highway to St Mary's where we'd booked a bed for the night at the hotel.

Epilogue:  Kim was keen to get to the hotel for a shower, but I was obsessed by the Back Track route, so I got Kim to drop me back up Richardson's Road, although this time I took the second junction (1.8km) from the start of the road which, as I expected it would,  met up with the less distinct trail we had headed out on before.

This time though when I got to the junction where we'd gone right, I instead continued around to the left on the main track (despite how much I wanted to see that dog again) and sure enough after a bit of an uphill section (through some lovely forest) ...

I dropped out exactly where I should have ... on Lower German Town Road.  Strange thing though was that the track seemed to be as much uphill as downhill, and it was the road itself which was a steep, fast descent.  Not a track I'd rave about, but it was a nice way to add distance to the loop.

All up, the loop was around 35kms, plus I covered another 5kms with my extra loop.  So with our earlier ride that was a 50km day which was good.

We ordered up big for dinner at the St Mary's hotel ...

Nachos for  me for entree
Prawn entree for Kim, Steak for mains (no pic).
I opted for bangers and mash for main.
... and then I struggled to finish half my nachos and only got through a third of my bangers and mash.  Eye's as always bigger than my stomach (and for those who know me, that's saying something).

We were in bed by 8pm.

The Garmin GPS route (including the 'dog' leg) can be viewed here.

Winifred Curtis Scamander Reserve

I sometimes wonder how other people plan their weekends (and their lives to be honest).

For example ... I jumped onto facebook last weekend when I was paddling up the North-West coast and I was caught by this photo of a glorious section of white sandy single track, and thought to myself ... I want to go there.  I wonder where it is?

By Monday I knew it was up near Scamander, and today ... we were there and ready to ride.

That's normal isn't it?

Turns out the photo was taken at the Winifred Curtis Scamander Reserve just south of Scamander (the entrance is directly across from the turnoff to the Upper Scamander Road which is 2kms south of Scamander and 6kms north of the Falmouth junction)

I'm not 100% sure if the park allows cycling ... it doesn't say cycling isn't allowed (just no trail bikes) and in fact in one spot (the board walk section) it specifically says "No bicycles", which would indicate to me that cycling is allowed elsewhere in the park.

That said, even if bikes aren't encouraged, we weren't exactly churning the place up ... in fact we were crawling around at a pretty slow pace ... for no particular reason ...

There's a cool little map and description of the reserve at the entrance ...

... and there are copies of the map at pretty much every single junction (well, except the one where we got lost and rode out of the reserve) and so we just followed the tracks around in a sort of anti-clockwise direction with a few zigs and zags thrown in as we didn't want to miss any trails ...

It was a lovely little reserve, with very easy flat riding.  Be ideal for a family ride (with a parent out front looking for snakes) and we really did tootle around at a slow speed.

All up we were there for about an hour and covered about 8kms of track ... totally worth the three hours of driving to get there.  

Totally worth it ... 

To get some feel of where we rode, feel free to check out my garmin gpx.