Downhill into the Huon Valley

Aha.  I seem to have a theme going – downhill!!

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Mrs C dropped me off at the highest point between Kingston and Huonville and then drove off.  I got the bike together and had a look around.  A fantastic day.  A not too busy Huon Highway.  A descent to Mountain River and then on to the Huon River was planned.

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This is the start of the way down.  Hard shoulder – yes.  A white line, inside that yellow reflectors and inside that about 10cms of space before shitty gravel drops away from the road.  Traffic travelling at the prescribed 100kph – at least.  OK, better be careful.

I set off and found most drivers were helpful.  Thanks to you all.  I cycled on the white line except where things are a bit dodgy and then I cycled in the middle of the lane to stop people thinking of passing.  Mostly white line work though.  Speed up in the 30s but I didn’t try and take a video on the phone after learning my lesson a day or two back.  Down to the Dip Road turnoff I thought I would roll up to 50kph but only made it to 49.6 before braking and turning off.  Disappointing and Bugger.

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Dip Road.  And does it ever!  Here we go down to Mountain River using this rather steep gravel road – see the remains of the dust flung up by the last car driving past?  Rear braking and wheel skidding I slipped down the steep parts and on to the corrugated lower sections.  The views were amazing.  I rate the Huon Valley as one of my favourite places in the world and I was lucky enough to live in the valley for 10-12 years back in the mid 80s-90s.

The hill range in the distance is the Kunanyi / Mount Wellington range and so lets acknowledge the traditional and original owners of this land, the muwinina [mou wee nee nar] people.

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As I get lower, “Sleeping Beauty” becomes visible.  This view of the range is special to the Huon Valley and under today’s morning light, it seems just an outline.  Going back to Howden this evening the face was totally in the late sun and all her “wrinkles” clearly stood out.  One day in the long-ago past, I walked to the top of her nose – a peak called Collin’s Cap.  I started in shorts and tee shirt but by the time I got to the top I had every piece of clothing in my backpack on – it was really cold up there.

Today the road took me on down to Mountain River Road and tarmac.  I rode along through an area of small acreage farms and other houses with small gardens really well looked after.  The scents coming at a cyclist were many and varying from a rather pongy farmyard smells to flowers blossoming by the roadside back to dead things in the ditch.  Very rural.

At the end of MRR I had to rejoin the Huon Highway for another 2 or 3 kilometers until the turn off the Ranelagh was reached.  I took this and proceeded to Huonville via this backroad wending it’s way through apple orchards.  Back in the 1970’s the Huon Valley produced many, many boxes of apples which were sent off to Great Britain for sale during their off season.  Then GB joined the EU and the market shut almost overnight.  Orchards in the Huon were given government money to pull out their trees and start over with something new.  When we moved here in the mid 80s orchardists were experimenting with new apple varieties and export methods aiming at the USofA.  Then Asian markets came into focus and because Tasmania doesn’t have FruitFly we were able to get product in.  The orchards have expanded once more and different apple varieties were grafted onto existing rootstocks and a good trade to South Korea, China and Malaysia amongst others was built up.  Not just apples either – cherries, nectarines and so on.  BUT this year FruitFly has been found in Tasmania and things are looking a little problematic again.

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As I cycled towards Ranelagh I saw apple trees that have already been picked.  There are some high fruits remaining but most look like the above – no apples left.

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This above is a sign of the times.  Grapes are getting into the valley.  Well, they have been here for some time and the cool climate varieties for Pino Noir and Sav. Blancs have been grown and producing well respected wines for many a year now.  However, climate change is resulting in cool climate grapes no longer growing in South Australia or even Victoria.  They can be grown still but the climatic conditions there mean they don’t hit the ultimate qualities demanded by the consumer willing to pay top dollar.  So the businesses are moving their cool climate grape production to Tasmania.  At this stage we don’t yet know what will happen with the FruitFly – have we stopped it in it’s tracks? will they spread from their northern toe-hold?  BUT it looks like an expansion of the grape/wine industry may provide another avenue for work and earnings.

I cycled on and around to Huonville.  While there we had lunch with friends and I had a ride on Ken’s Bike E recumbent.  It looks OK in the picture but it was really weird trying to push off and then get the second foot onto the pedals before momentum ceased.  Especially as I found it was in 3rd gear~!  I did get going and rode along some of the local footpaths – the streets being extremely busy with drivers trying to live up the Huonville’s nickname of Hoonville.  After some time I was able to get going quite well but the steering was incredibly light and, well, odd – um.. not to say twitchy.  I think it would take a day or two to really feel at home on this machine because I found I was using a lot of arm pressure where I should be using very little.  I assume this is due to riding “normal” bikes and is something that would be sorted with more riding.

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OK.   No movement on the Challenge as yet.  That will start tomorrow when I will take another descent – this time into Hobart and a Coffee Shop!!!

Downhill on Lake Leake Road

We were on our way to Howden, south of Hobart where we will be visiting for the next few days.  First though we were taking the opportunity to divert off course a little to have lunch with friends at Dolphin Sands just north of Swansea.  The way to go is down to Campbell Town and then across country to the coast via the Lake Leake Road.

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Lake Leake Road is a wonderful 60+ kilometre road of light traffic and sweeping bends as it climbs up and over a 500 metre hill range.  A motorcyclists delight which I have savoured a number of times when riding motorised 2 wheels.

Today my ride began at the highest point on LLR because it is quite a climb up from Campbell Town and the day wasn’t long enough to do both parts.  Anyway it is much nicer to ride down!

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‘Ere we go !

We stopped at the Information Board at the point the road starts down and I unfolded the Brommie.  Sue drove off and I began the descent.  I held the phone in front hoping for a reasonable video.  Once over 40kph it proved impossible to cycle one-handed!  Every bump moved the front wheel and I was over correcting as the front tried to take off somewhere other than straight ahead.  No good.  I had read it is not possible for normal riders to ride these bikes with “no hands” but I can’t ride one-handed once a bit of speed is on.  Never mind – I continued and, with two hands paying attention, speeds of 40+kph were safe.  The stiff “seabreeze” coming head on prevented some truely remarkable speeds occurring but it wasn’t long before I could see the sea and the granite hills of The Hazards and knew the first 15k was coming to an end.

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There were warning signs advising bends for the next “x” kilometers.  These feature regularly.  Then – after a nice ride – the Hazards could be seen !

Once out of the woods the breeze blew nicely straight into my face and I had to spin along in 3rd gear to keep any sort of speed up.  After the descent the countryside seemed to be passing awfully slowly.  Across the paddocks I could see the east coast highway but it didn’t seem to get much closer for quite a while.  The questions in my mind were “how busy was it?” and “how many caravans were travelling today?”.

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Closing in on the highway – look how the colours on the sign mirror those in         real life

It proved to be a quiet day on the highway and with the breeze now coming in onto the left shoulder 4th gear was do-able.  As I passed a couple of items of roadside interest I was able to stop and get pictures.

On the left are shots of Wet Marsh Creek.  Back in the day the sign was changed as shown in the 2007 picture of me on the maxi-scoot.

Onwards towards Swansea and the Dolphin Sands turn off.  On the left along Dolphin Sands road there was once a walnut orchard – part of an experiment to see how they would grow in the area.  It can’t have been very good as a couple of years ago the trees were pulled – but the irrigation remains.  We think the late spring frosts the area has (even though it it not far from the sea) knocked the trees around too much.

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Did anyone see “From Dusk to Dawn”, the zombie movie?

The road leads to an area of of sand dune territory which has been divided up into 5 acre  lifestyle blocks.  Initially they were used by people for the building of shacks or setting up permanent caravans mostly for use as holiday homes.  Then Tasmania’s east coast was discovered and the area was much in demand from interstate buyers and block prices rocket in about 2 years from $50,000 to $350,000.  Permanent residents then built permanent houses and the area is now home to many interesting people (mostly retired) who bring a variety of skills (and stories) to the community.  Intermingled with the new are older residents who find a ready market for their tradie skills and local knowledge of how things are done.

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End of the Road.  View from Dolphin Sands across to Swansea

A delightful lunch was gratefully received and the above was pretty much the view from the dining table.  Then it was back in the car, hitting Hobart just as rush hour was at it’s peak so a slow trip south to Howden followed.  While passing through Hobart, we saw two heavily laden touring cyclists on Viventes (like my other bike) biking the footpath through the docks and up Davey Street. Although they were being held up by walkers striding homewards they stayed ahead of us for quite a few blocks.

Oscar was not the only one glad to arrive and have a stretch.  The next report should be of a ride in the Huon.