Sunday 31 December 2017

Cycling the Island 3: Onward and Upward

As much as we’ve loved the east coast, compass logic tells us that we’ll have to leave it soon and head west if we’re to get to Devonport. And from Swansea that means one thing: the Lake Leake Highway. It’s a quiet road – barely a highway at all – but we will have to gain over 600m in elevation over a short distance, and on a day that’s already warm and sunny.

But first, as we ride north of Swansea, I ponder the English landscape fantasies of the early settlers. We're passing stone walls, hawthorn hedges, and fields filled with sheep and vines and groves of walnuts. At one point we ride through a tunnel of deciduous trees, their late spring leaves a dazzling green. 

[Riding north of Swansea] 
But as we turn off towards Lake Leake, gum trees and dry paddocks return, and the spell is broken. We’re in Australia again. The fierce sun reinforces that, and on the climb we begin to quickly use up both water supplies and battery power.

[Tim pauses at a view point above Great Oyster Bay] 
A compensation of the climb is the view. We stop in one forest clearing to look back over Oyster Bay towards a distant Freycinet Peninsula, a little surprised by how far we already appear to have come. We’re all keeping an eye on battery levels in relation to distance from our recharge point. By the time we pause at our high point, some of us have used 80% of our charge. 

[At the high point, Lake Leake Highway] 
But we soon turn off onto the gravel road that leads to Lake Leake Inn. The hospitality at the inn is very welcome, and we take the chance to recharge – in every sense – over a long lunch. The lake itself isn’t quite visible from the inn, so after we've eaten some of us walk the few hundred metres to the reservoir. Built in the 1880s as a water storage for Campbell Town, it has long been used by recreational anglers, who have put up an assortment of highly individual shacks along its shores.

[A welcome break at Lake Leake Inn]  
Like the water, we flow downhill from Lake Leake towards Campbell Town. What went up slowly goes down very quickly. While regulations for e-bikes mean that the motor cuts out at around 25kmh, gravity and momentum obey different laws. It’s an exhilarating, air-conditioned ride, with several of us setting personal speed records.

[A sheep paddock as we near Campbell Town] 
Still, by the time we pedal into Campbell Town, we’re puffing and sweating. We’ve ridden 77km, much of it uphill in hot conditions. A cooling ale, and a shower precede some electric vehicle duties. We put up banners in the park, and talk e-bikes and electric cars to those wandering by.

Campbell Town was once an overnight stop for coaches travelling between the north and south of Tasmania. These days it thrives as a midway point for day trippers on the same route. It now occurs to me that our group has reverted to a horse and coach-like speed. Like the top-hatted gents and bonneted ladies of the 19th century, we too will rest our weary bones in a Campbell Town inn tonight.  

[It's time to stop!] 

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