There is no doubt that Tasmania (Australia) is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The natural beauty of the rainforests on the western coast has to be seen to be believed.
But beware! Tasmanians think nothing of their wet weather and when they casually invite you to explore their ‘railtrails’ on the western side of the state, you had better make sure you are well prepared!
Most importantly, you will need a good camera to capture the magical waterfalls, creeks and the magnificent rainforest vegetation. But, you should also take a raincoat, even if the sun is out when you leave (the weather is notoriously changeable, and it gets wet, very wet, very quickly!).
The wise railtrail cyclist will realise that they will most likely also get somewhat grubby! If you are really keen, and love splashing through the mud, then you will be in for the ride of your life and will emerge in dire need of a hot shower. It will also be weeks before you get all the grit out of the moving parts of your bike, no matter how well or how often you wash it! If you are not an avid mud lover, you may even be tempted to consider porting along some gumboots for the really wet bits (just kidding!) 🙂
In the summer of 2010 we tackled the railtrail near Zeehan. The trains have long since ceased running but evidence of their presence can still be found in some old wooden bridges and half buried sleepers.
I am a bit sentimental about disused railways and never get tired of marvelling at and exploring the relics of bridges and other infrastructure that is now sadly abandoned and left to rot. It is difficult to imagine those heavy old engines and their loads steaming over the fragile looking wooden bridges and stone culverts with their shrill whistle echoing through the valleys.
Being a bit passionate about plants too, I found the forest truly awe-inspiring. It is one of those places that is spectacular regardless of the weather. We rode through rain, mist and smatterings of sunshine and the vegetation was different and lovely in each one.
A few sections on the trail posed some interesting challenges. I must confess that I was not overly impressed at the creek crossing which had to be negotiated on foot, given the size of the boulders in the river bed.
But my fellow cyclists were highly entertained by my discomfort and delightfully caught it on camera! Afterwards, when I was no longer wet, it did get me laughing too! The only consolation was that it had not been raining for long, so I only had to negotiate shallow water. It would have been a different story if the creek was full!
We rode on two sections of the trail. One part is only open to cyclists and bush walkers. The condition of the track was excellent in this part and gave you the opportunity to look around as you were riding.
Unfortunately the other part, which is open to motorised transport, was very degraded with big muddy potholes and slippery sections. Here it was necessary to watch the road carefully all the way to avoid ending up in the mud. If I did the ride again, I would not bother with this section, as I really did not enjoy it.
But overall, it was a great experience and a wonderful way to experience the incredible natural beauty of Tasmania.