Tuesday 16 January 2018

Cycling the Island 5: Meandering to the Mersey

We wake to bright sunshine and the waft of frying bacon. Some brekky angels are busy in the kitchen of the Drumreagh barn. As the enticing odour infiltrates the campervan, I ask Tim how he, as a vegetarian, can resist that smell. He knows I'm baiting him, and blithely concentrates on the egg/tomato/toast side of things.

[At Drumreagh Farm near Deloraine]  
Bacon or not, it’s a blissful sunny morning at the farm. We’re in no hurry to start our last day’s riding, and for a time we laze about in the sun. One of the farm’s chickens – a beautifully marked Wyandotte – gets very friendly and tries her best to come inside. We thank her for her contribution, but firmly hoosh her outside.

[The friendly Wyandotte knocks on our door] 
Today’s first stop is a “meet the riders” session just up the road at Cycles CafĂ©. It attracts a reporter from the local newspaper as well as a few curious locals. We sneak a quick coffee, then get photographed en-masse as we ride off.

[Setting up the display outside Cycles Cafe] 
Had there been paparazzi following us we might have quickly thrown them off our scent thanks to our convoluted backroads route. We’re heading for lunch at Railton via the “towns” of Dunorlan, Weegena and Kimberley. Although they wouldn’t trouble the census collectors for long, these last three are set in delightful countryside. 

[Easy riding near Dunorlan] 
The hills vary from tight to relaxed, but all is verdant. We pause in one hilly section and flop down on a grassy bank for a morning tea of leftovers. It’s far more delicious than it sounds, and we wash down the remaining soft cheese, fruit, biccies and fruit cake with thermos tea or coffee.

[Morning tea near Dunorlan] 
At Railton we have another public gathering, and meet another mayor: this time Kentish mayor Don Thwaites. He turns out to be quite keen on cycling, and enjoys his turn on one of our e-bikes. After Railton our backroads options are few, and we start to encounter more traffic as we glide down towards Latrobe. But after we cross the Mersey River in its final freshwater section, we turn onto River Road. This proves a perfect way to ease into the city of Devonport. Not only is there little traffic, it’s also far more picturesque than the main roads.

[Group shot by the Mersey] 
As we ride alongside the expansive Mersey estuary, its waters blue and sparkling, there’s a growing sense of accomplishment; of a job almost done. We pause twice, first for some group photos, and then to allow Tim to park his campervan so he can ride the last few kilometres into Devonport with the rest of us. Then it’s together across the main bridge, and south for the last brief road ride to the Waterfront Function Centre, our finish point and the venue for the Australian Electric Vehicles Association conference.

[Riders and support vehicles nearing the finish] 
Clive’s Nissan Leaf leads the convoy into the carpark. With our bicycle bells tinkling, our arms waving and our voices hollering, we’re cheered into Devonport by a small crowd of supporters. We’ve done it! Our faces split by wide smiles, we exchange hugs and high-fives to congratulate each other on getting here! We’ve ridden over 380km without incident, and moreover with a growing sense of camaraderie, and a rejuvenated sense of what a wonderful island we share.

[Celebrations at the finish] 
For me, more a wilderness walker than a cyclist, this has been a chance to get reacquainted with – and fall in love afresh with – the more settled parts of Tasmania. Putting together those two aspects of our state, the wild and the tamed, has made me wonder if there are any places in the world as diverse and beautiful as this island. 

I would like to thank all the riders who took part in the ride, whether for part or all of the 5 days. And thanks to those who supported the ride through driving, cooking, route selecting and otherwise organising. The biggest thank you must go to Jack Gilding, who masterminded the whole e-bike ride. It was a very special event!

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