Km 14801 – Nelson, New Zealand
- There are places on this earth whose sound has settled in one’s soul at some point. Besides Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, it was Tasmania for me as well. And in terms of cycling it is more manageable anyway: Tasmania corresponds to just under 1% of Australia’s landmass. Nevertheless, we spend 50 % of our visa time here (= 6 weeks).
- The island South East of Australia, also lovingly called “Tassie”, can be reached by ferry with the name “Spirit of Tasmania”. If the ferry is named like that, because the islanders have such a good spirit? Towards us at least the Tasmanian inhabitants show themselves at their best with their good-hearted, outgoing and noble spirit.
- During the first week we do something separately for a change. We each go to a different host of the Help Exchange Network and after 9 days we meet up in Launceston again. Alex’s hosts Duncan and Cassandra invited us for x-mas lunch, where we have a cordial and laid- back feast with heaps of delicious dishes.
- From Launceston we cycle towards the East Coast at first and then towards the South. Along the way, there are not only beautiful landscapes, but hearty human experiences as well. That’s how we arrive in Swanick – a small village mainly consisting of holiday houses. We had an address and a description where the keys were hidden. A little moment later we are in a beautiful house, right next to a lake. Graham, Cassandra’s uncle, had invited us to his “shack” on Christmas day – two minutes after he got to know us and although he knew that he and his wife wouldn’t be there. A wonderful present: to have a little refuge to ourselves over the turn of the year.
- Exciting departure from Swanick: to avoid cycling all around the bay again, we take Graham’s rowing boat and paddle it approximately 25 metres to the other side of a small canal. The strong currents suck us towards the open sea, but we do manage to get dryly to the other shore. The original plan was that Alex rows the boat back alone and then swims. But destiny sends two teenagers with a jetski to the beach. The rowing boat is attached and the two girls pull him across. For the way back they even offer him another ride. Brilliant! The whole operation saves us 50 kilometres detour and presents us a calm, hardly used road which leads us to…
- … Donnalee & Pete in Swansea. These two receive us just like old friends, and they let us participate in their lives. At night some friends come for dinner and everyone is making music. The next morning we practise some yoga together, brunch with more friends and swap life philosophies. Absorbed by this harmonious microcosm we stay a night longer than planned.
- We find a shelter for our bicycles and hike along the spectacular cliffs in the South East of the island (Eagle Hawk Neck to Fortescue Bay, then Cape Huay). An outgoing family who lets us camp with them on the campground, has heaps of local knowledge for further hikes on the islands (e.g. which huts and summits to go to). There is a vast array of unspoiled nature on Tasmania. Alone 38% of the land are protected by National Park status.
- On our way back to our bicycles, Angie stops for us – and she really is an angel (not only because of her name). She does not only offer to drive a detour for us, but also offers to take our bicycles in her station wagon (!) for the missing 90 kilometres to Hobart. It is pouring with rain and we accept deeply thankful. Here it also becomes clear how our way to travel has evolved over the past two years: a combination of cycling, hitchhiking and hiking.
- In Hobart, Angie even drives us to a lookout point and gives us shelter, tea and veggie burgers until our hosts are back from work. She then brings us to Jacqui & Brett, who – together with their children Savannah (18) and Dylan (21) – live a fascinating family life because it is really laid-back. They have everything magically work out. Dylan cooks for us, then we cook sth, then Jacqui, etc. We stay for a couple of days and participate in their everyday lives. We manage to get organized a bit and are happy to inspire each other. Now that their kids are adults: Jacqui & Brett are planning to cycle tour through Europa for six months ad have many questions. Jacqui even writes a post about us on her blog: http://jacslifeontheroad.com/warm-showers-experience
- We decide to spend the remaining two weeks of our time in Tasmania in the nature and go hiking again. That’s why we store our bicycles in Devonport and hitchhike towards the trailheads in the National Parks (Walls of Jerusalem and Cradle Mountain). The recommended huts are very handy – not only to leave our backpacks there during the day (base camp), but also to hide inside of them when it’s raining. There regularly is sunshine as well though, which allows us to climb the surrounding peaks (Mt. Jerusalem, Salamon’s Throne, Barn Bluff, Cradle Mountain). We were lucky, because in this region of Tasmania, there are 250 rainy days per year.
- An uncountable amount of people take us for a little bit. On our way back – our last ride in Australia – the woman who took us for only half an hour, gets out of the car and gives us a giant hug. She is only one of the many communicative, helpful, open-minded and generous people of Tasmania. Thankful and grateful we sit on the ferry to Melbourne and look back.
Our last week in Australia is spent in Melbourne again. This time we stay with Lucy & Stephen whom we got to know in Launceston (Tasmania). During our second visit, the metropolis is shining again: with graffitis, botanical gardens and cultural initiatives. You can find everything from urban gardening to bicycle kitchens to several restaurants called “lentil as anything” where there are no prices on the menu and “where guests contribute what they feel their meal and experience is worth, according to their own financial ability.”
- Goodbye, Melbourne. We could have imagined to stay here longer. But our flights to New Zealand are booked and thus we strap the huge bicycle boxes to our rack and off we go to the airport.