A day of food and wine

We were up at dawn, literally, to ride around Mt William NP. It’s only a small park but it (like lots of Tassie) has a large wildlife population. We rode the 20km loop through the park alongside mobs of Forester kangaroos and Bennetts wallabies (do wallabies live in mobs?). There was a real danger of having them hop right into us! Apparently the park is also good for spotting wombats, echidnas and even Tasmanian devils – but we only saw the hoppies.

I set a new record for earliest lunch by returning to camp starving! By 9am I’d eaten lunch! My previous earliest lunch was on the Tour d’Afrique when the lunch truck appeared at 10.30am, albeit after 70-odd km of riding. I think it’s my cold making me eat as I was famished yesterday too.

The plan for today was shaped by the fact I’m still sick – we decided a leisurely drive and winery touring was in order! Again, we were driving over almost identical terrain to our cycling trip – in fact most of today was re-tracing the day from hell, which Leonie and I still don’t talk about. Of course it was much easier in the car! And we took the opportunity to visit two places we were too exhausted to bother with sat time.

Legerwood is a tiny town (no shops) that is home to wood carvings. Many people had told us to visit these, but wood carvings don’t generally float my boat. However Guy was driving. Turns out to have been the right thing to do on an Anzac Day! Legerwood used to have an avenue of honour – about 9 or 10 trees, one planted for each man from the area who didn’t return from war. In about 2004 the trees had gotten so huge and old that they needed to be cut down before they fell down. So now, each old stump bears a chainsaw carving of the person and some depiction of his life. It’s the stories that make these trees special, not the carvings themselves.

Pretty soon I was hungry for second lunch so a stop in Scottsdale was in order. Scottsdale was another place on the day from hell that we didn’t stop at. Turns out is quite pretty. We had a tasty snack for (second) lunch and, now we were properly back in phone range, concocted a plan for the afternoon.

A quick check of the LP and we were booked in for dinner at Stillwater, a restaurant in Launceston that I’ve been keen to try for a while, we had a bed booked at cheaper than advertised rates, and a plan for wineries to visit in the afternoon.

We had a beautiful drive through the Tamar Valley to Delamere, Bay of Fires and Josef Chromy wineries. Bay of Fires was truly outstanding. But they had sold out of their (award-winning) pinot noir so it was all up to me to do the tasting and choosing. We lashed out on a couple of bottles of Arras sparkling – a wine they’re famous for and the best Australian champagne I’ve tasted – as well as some Riesling and Pinot Gris. Guy was already a fan of Josef Chromy from last trip, so it was kind of a pilgrimage for him. Another dozen bottles into the car. Josef Chromy was also the setting for third lunch. Since dinner wasn’t until 8.30 we required an afternoon snack of Tasmanian cheeses on their deck.

Somehow, we hadn’t eaten too much to order the tasting menu at Stillwater. And thank goodness. This ranks as the best meal I’ve eaten – knocking off Vue de Monde from top spot! Six tasting serves of rabbit, yellowish sashimi, carpaccio of beef, spring bay scallops, trout, venison, plus dessert. Yum!

Notable food & wine moments: Bruny Island cheeses – The Saint and 1792, Arras sparkling, Milton Pinot Gris, Moore Hill Riesling, Josef Chromy Zdar Pinot Noir, Apsley Gorge Pinot Noir. Plus the Stillwater menu of course!

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Down but not out

I woke up this morning with cold. Truth be known I was awake a good portion of the night with it too. I blame a combination of cold windy day yesterday with wet feet, low immunity after recent bout of flu and Guy, just because.

First order of the day became a trip back down to St Helens to get some cold and flu meds. With that sorted I felt better, but not well enough for any more mountain bike excitement. (The other mtb delights of Weldborough will have to wait for another trip). Instead, we drove into the dramatic St Columba Falls and took the 20min walk to the base (viewing platform closed due to flood washout). Afterwards we couldn’t not stop at Pyengana Dairy for lunch since it was right there! Their Ploughmans Lunch was just what the doctor ordered.

After lunch our attempt to visit the Anchor Stampers (old tin mining stampers) was foiled by more washouts, this time of the whole track in. So we ended up just meandering our way north to Mt William NP. This is almost as far north as you can get on mainland Tasmania. We’re camped at a lovely site under she-oaks. There’s a breeze, but we have a campfire going, Guy is cooling wine in a wet sock, and we’ve got the makings of golden syrup dumplings for dessert. The only way life could be better is if I didn’t have a cold (and it was warmer, and I had 3G, and we brought chairs.) LOL, we don’t need those things since we do have wine glasses!

Notable food and wine moments: Ploghmans Lunch at Pyengana, golden syrup dumplings, Louis Riesling Schoenburger.

The Blue Tier Descent

Our mountain biking morning turned into a mountain biking day! We had an epic ride from Weldborough Pass up to the Blue Tier and back down into Weldborough.

The owner of the hotel, Marty, kindly ran us up to the pass to avoid the initial climb out of Weldborough. It had been windy at the hotel, but up at the pass it was blowing an absolute gale. Luckily it was coming from behind for the first ten kms up to the Blue Tier itself. It was a fantastic ride up a dirt road, currently closed to cars due to the heavy rain. The road was shrouded by ferns, with snatches of stunning view out over the ranges towards St Helens.

We rode through Lottah, an old tin mining town, and on to Poimena, another old tin town that is now the start point for walks and rides in the Blue Tier State Forest. There used to be a town of a few hundred people here back in the tin mining hey day, but now all that’s left is a clearing and an information board showing the old street plan. I’m always astounded by how quickly and comprehensively nature can reclaim abandoned towns. It was blowing a gale up here too so we didn’t hang around too long.

The ride back down, The Blue Tier Descent, was sodden! For those who’ve walked in Tassie, think of those muddy bogholes that you find on walking tracks. Now imagine carrying or pushing a bike through them! It wasn’t long until our feet were soaked (cycling shoes have holes in the bottom where the cleats attach meaning wet socks as soon as water touches the sole). We felt guilty for being here, even though it’s a designated mountain bike trail, as we could see what damage we were doing to the environment. Our consolation was that there probably aren’t enough riders to be a problem – you couldn’t have a trail like this in Victoria as the crowds of visitors would destroy it.

In case you haven’t guessed already, Tassie, like the rest of Australia, has had a stack of rain recently. So as well as the mudholes, the tracks have suffered enormously from erosion. This made parts of the downhill totally unrideable since the track had practically become a creek! It was extremely tough going and many sections were unrideable (not to mention the sections that were unrideable for me because I’m only your casual mountain biker)! All this mud and erosion, not to mention creek crossings and trees across the track, made for extremely slow going and our expected 3 hour ride to be back in time for lunch turned into a 6 hour back in time for dinner outing. Boy were we glad when we finally popped out of the forest and into the pastures of Weldborough, muddy and hungry!

We spent the rest of the day in front of the fire in the hotel talking with a couple of Swiss mountain bikers that we’d met riding up the impossible downhill, and waiting until 6pm when we could order dinner! By 7.30 we were well and truly tuckered out. Not even the lure of talking to two cycle tourers who’d just slogged up the hill from Bridport could keep us up. By 8pm we were tucked up in the tent and asleep!

Notable food and wine moments: Few and far between today, although a piece of homemade brownie after the ride is definitely worth mentioning.

4 days in 3 hours

That’s how quickly we covered 4 days of cycling effort today! It was a bit of an aimless day that turned out to contain a few gems. A sleep in and a late start set the tone for the day that ended up mostly being a leisurely drive in gorgeous sunny (if brisk) weather.

On leaving we immediately began to pass closed wineries. Being Good Friday we expected quite a lot of this. Milton (the excellent wine from last night) – closed, Coombend – closed. But suddenly joy! A flurry of wine tasting resulted in two bottles of riesling in the bag and a near miss on an $80 pinot noir!

We took a detour up to Douglas Apsley NP. We’d skipped this last trip as the thought of an extra 15k on an already long day had been too much. Boy were we wrong! A lovely route up a very gently sloping valley to a hidden waterhole would have been just the ticket on a hot day! Today was too cold too swim (actually, anyone who knows me well will know that it’s never too cold for a swim for me, it was just that we hadn’t done anything to work up a sweat) but I did assemble the mtb for a quick 7km back down the valley. Glorious.

Lunch today was a disappointment. We went to Ironhouse Brewery, another missed opportunity last time, but it turned out to have only average food and to be full of families. Not our scene.

We really enjoyed driving up the long climb to the Weldborough Pass. That was a long ride last time that I have no urge to repeat. Since we were here there’s been some more big rains and we passed a number of sections of road that had been washed out.

The Weldborough Hotel was as welcome a sight as last time. It’s such a lovely setting. This time it’s teeming with people here for the walking, mountain biking, motorcycling. We’ve got a good tip on where to ride tomorrow and are spending the evening drinking local Tassie brews.

Notable food and wine moments: Bulmers Cider.

A sense of de ja vu

Awoke this morning with a sense of de ja vu as we stayed last night in the Swansea Backpackers. Yes, Swansea. We ended up driving Devonport to Hobart to Swansea yesterday, which is kind of a three quarter loop of the state in a day! But we ticked off two must-dos for the trip in the first day – MONA and The Banc restaurant.

We didn’t take the main highway down to Hobart as there is a much more lovely route over the Central Plateau. This route skirts along the edge of the Great Lake and touches the edge of the Wilderness World Heritage Area before descending through farming valleys into the northern outskirts of Hobart. It’s a truly gorgeous drive. Yesterday the first part of it was shrouded in cloud, but that only made it more atmospheric (and instilled a plan to pop back to it on our last day to ride some of it).

After a little bushwalking expedition (during which Guy teased me about being dressed for the gallery instead of the bush) we arrived at MONA (for which I was perfectly attired) just in time for lunch. MONA didn’t disappoint. It is a great mix of art and was very enjoyable. We spent about three hours poking around everything. To my surprise my favourite piece was an audio visual of people singing Madonna songs a cappella. Guy’s favourite is too hard to describe well – a giant metal head on it’s side with strobing action inside it. Neither of us liked the gastrointestinal machine though!

It was poring rain as we left MONA. And since we’d discovered that most of the Coal River Valley wineries (and indeed most of Tasmania I think) were going to be closed on Good Friday we made a last minute change of plan. Two quick phone calls and we were set. We could go all the way to Swansea in time for dinner at The Banc.

This meant that we retraced three full days of our cycling trip in just two hours! Slightly depressing. But it also meant that we’d be a day ahead of ourselves (hopefully time to revisit the Great Lake at the end now).

The Banc was as good as we’d anticipated. And we’d been anticipating since last trip when we’d come through Swansea on a Tuesday night – the only night that The Banc is closed.

Today we’re planning to end up at Weldborough Hotel to spend a couple of days exploring the Blue Tier and mountain biking. And I’m sure we’ll find a couple of adventures to have today. No reception up there so will be out of touch for a few days.

Notable food and wine moments: Milton Pinot Noir, Milton Riesling, Kelvedon Estate Sav Blanc (repeat performance from last trip), Yellowfin Tuna with seaweed, ginger, coriander and soy sauce, Anvers walnut praline chocolates.

Devonport 6.31am

Waiting to disembark.

Can’t complain about the service on the Spirit of Tasmania. Absolutely everyone we interacted with was fantastic – from checkout chicks to tourist office lady to cleaners. The food however, was abysmal. Will definitely plan a repeat of last trip’s gourmet Tassie picnic for the return journey!

Unfinished and another start

We’re off on another quick trip on Wednesday. Six days around Tasmania, with mountain bikes in tow this time. Looking back before we leave reveals another trip blog not quite finished. There is definitely a recurring theme in my blogging life. (Truth be known, it’s not just my blogging life – I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule).
But does it matter I wonder?