Tuesday 5 December 2017

Cycling the Island 2: A Great Eastern Ride

[Great riding along Tasmania's East Coast] 
It’s a shame that the moniker “The Great Ocean Road” was already taken when a Tasmanian committee sat down to choose a name for the route we’ll ride today. The thirty kilometre section of road between Little Swanport and Swansea is literally both great and by the ocean. Arguably it’s one of the most picturesque coastal routes anywhere in the world, and an undoubted highlight of the 176km east coast drive between Orford and St Helens. Sadly our naming committee delivered a camel: the route is now labelled “The Great Eastern Drive”.

[Tim drinks in the views over Great Oyster Bay] 
But that’s the end of today’s sadness, especially when we wake to sunny skies. Most of our gear has dried and we’re refreshed and keen to be riding again. Although we’ll spend most of today’s 55km ride on the busy Tasman Highway, we’ve begun to trust our support vehicle system. Two vehicles, both with bright yellow signs warning “Cyclists Ahead”, are driving behind us. Our other support vehicle, an emission-free Nissan Leaf, is driving ahead of us with a bright yellow sign warning “Cycle Event: Slow Down”.

Today Dion has agreed to drive the campervan so Tim can ride the whole section. It’s a generous gesture, and sets a pattern for later days. We take our time getting ready, as our day is short and the first recharge/lunch stop is only a little over 20km away. Once we’re riding, we spread out along the relatively flat section north of Triabunna, cycling with only mild effort past paddocks filled with spring lambs. Riding single file on the busy road keeps conversation minimal. But I’m feeling very upbeat, and have the perfect head tune in Runrig’s “May Morning”.

“I’m alive again on a May morning” it starts. And though I know it isn’t May, it is the southern hemisphere’s equivalent that we’re riding through.

All the yearning buds are here again
With the the promise of a new life to come
Spring is here again.

Each rider has something different in his or her head. I chuckle as I hear Michael bleating a greeting to the occasional sheep. Others are keeping an eye on the following traffic, or seeing if they can keep the whole group in sight. (They seldom can.)

[Lunchtime at Gumleaves] 
We’re early for lunch at Gumleaves, a nicely old-fashioned accommodation-come-adventure centre a few kilometres off the highway. We’ve booked a kitchen/dining hall, and some of our support team (kudos here to Clive and Sue) have bought food to cook and share. A leisurely lunch suits the recharging of batteries, even if some of us haven’t yet used much. Neville, our oldest rider at 87, has some visitors here. As well as being sprightly in the saddle, he’s an amazingly handy inventor, having made his own e-bike, complete with two bespoke batteries. He takes time over lunch to explain the details, although some eyes glaze over when words like amp hours, watts and watt hours start to be thrown about.

[Neville rides out of Gumleaves] 
By the time we’re riding again the day is sunny and warm, the wide blue sky wisped with high cirrus. Around Lisdillon we start to gain broad views across Great Oyster Bay and out towards the Freycinet Peninsula. It’s hard not to be mesmerised by the scene. 

[Photo stop after Mayfield Beach] 
At one point I call out to the riders nearest me, and arrange to stop for photographs. We end up doing this several times as beach gives way to beach: Lisdillon, Mayfield, Kelvedon, Spiky. All the while the water, the mountains, the sky form a backdrop that’s a rhapsody in blue.

[Dawdling towards Swansea] 
We Tasmanians are blessed with a variable climate. Or to put it another way, this place will not always produce these stunning views. We exult in it while we can, breathing in the blue as we dawdle towards Swansea.

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