Our flight from Christchurch to Melbourne went without a hitch – the luggage remained in one piece and the boxes, thankfully, looked as though they weren’t touched this time. The only issue we had was the flight time – a few months prior, we believed that a 6am flight time was wise (obviously forgetting that we needed a few additional hours to check in and get to the airport and thus waking up at 2 am). The only other surprise was that every single piece of our luggage had gained 2 kg – although absolutely nothing got added or removed to it – we had luckily paid for enough weight, but noticed that the balances at the airport measure 2 kg when empty…
We landed early in the morning after a very short night and exited the Melbourne airport exhausted and in desperate need of caffeine before rebuilding our bike. Once the bike was build and all our gear loaded, we turned on our GPS and were pleasantly surprised to find out that nearly 45 of the 50 kms of our route to our friend’s place was bike path. We took the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail under many overpasses and following a cemented channel all the way into the downtown. Not very scenic and a bit surprising, but safe and efficient way to bike from the airport to the downtown! From there, we followed the beachfront all the way out near Brighton Beach and met up with our friend Anny from Augsburg.
The next day, after regaining our sleep, Cédric and I set out to explore Melbourne and saw many of the things that our friends had recommended to us: the Film Museum, AC/DC street, Chinatown, the CBD, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), and the botanical gardens to name a few. Cédric and I were quite impressed with Melbourne and were happy to see the large amount of road cyclists everywhere – for us, it means that drivers will/should be more cognizant of our presence on the roads. Also, we got particularly impressed by the number of people doing sports after work – hundreds of people jogging around the parks and for most of them, at a pace rarely seen around Augsburg! Melbourne is definitely into sports, and clearly not just on TV.
Thursday, Cédric and I made a few last adjustments to our bike (tightening everything together, the 5000km gear hub oil change, and cautiously trying to make the chain shine again without ruining the terrace…) and we stocked up on some supplies before we took the Spirit of Tasmania ferry across the Bass Strait. Because we had to board the ferry relatively early compared to when the boat launched, we enjoyed the sunny afternoon slowly cycling along the beachfront and even stuck our feet into the bay at some point. Our ferry ride was rather unremarkable, since we tried to go to bed early, although we did manage to watch a bit of an Australian Football game with some people in the lobby. Not sure we understood the rules of the game, not sure if there are rules at all, but we did try to get interested in the national sport (no, it’s neither rugby nor soccer).
The next morning, we disembarked before the sun rose and sought refuge in a local bakery in Devonport until it seemed light enough to cycle. For the better part of the day, we needed to get acquainted to the new scenery: we were no longer cycling through the mountainous landscapes of New Zealand, but more rolling hills. As we’ve learned over the past few days, Tasmania is not flat. Another thing that took some time getting accustomed to is the sheer amount of wallaby (small kangaroo) roadkill on the side of the road. In New Zealand, we saw many rabbits, birds, and possums on the side of the road, but they were never as fragrant as a 20 kg decomposing wallaby carcass. When spotting a carcass in front of us, we have a few seconds to calculate the “stinky zone” by gauging our speed and the wind direction to estimate when to take our last breath before passing the thing.
Both Saturday and Sunday, our days were marked with unrelenting rain. On Friday, we cycled from a campsite near Launceston to Scottsdale, where we stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast. Saturday, we awoke to a downpour and heavy winds, so we made the decision to stay indoors and forego riding for the day. That was clearly the best decision when we saw fields flooded and trees down the next day.
Monday, we were off again on the bike, and headed towards Tasmania’s east coast. To get there, we biked up an endless number of hills, broke our denivelation record, and arrived in St. Helens late Tuesday morning, after camping in Pyengana. We’ve been enjoying coast so far: it has some of the most brilliant blue waters and white sands while being sparsely populated and more laid back than in New Zealand. The forests offer some great rides with wildlife singing, parrots and rosellas accompanying us. Now that we’re in Swansea, we’re also happy to say that there are fewer wallabies on the side of the road (we even spotted some living ones from afar!). The surprise of the day was however the first (alive) tiger-snake looking us from the side of the road. Yes, we are in Australia in the country of all the crazy poisonous animals! Luckily, there is about zero risk of succumbing from them (a snake bite is very unlikely unless walking in bushes or trying to catch a snake, and even if bitten all the hospitals know and have all tools or antivenom against the different species) – still the tiger-snake was pretty scary!
((More pictures to come soon, we’re back on campground WiFi!))
We’re headed in to direction of Hobart, trying to make it to the city for the weekend.