(December 23, 2020 – written by Dave)
We’ve enjoyed a lovely day here in Evandale – limited clouds and no rain, what a difference a day makes. The bikes are clean and we’re ready for another adventure tomorrow, but more on that later. First a little about Evandale. Evandale is a quaint little village located some 20km north of Launceston (Tasmania’s second largest city). Launceston airport sits between Evandale and Launceston and as such the airport seems to have walled off Evandale from the modern world. There isn’t much modern about Evandale and I think that those living here like it that way.
Evandale was founded in early 1800s, just a few years after the English first arrived in Hobart. There were of course Aboriginal folks living here before that but as we’ve noted before, sadly very little is known of them. Today, there is a very distinct late-Georgian and early-Victorian flavour to the town’s architecture. We almost feel guilty walking around in modern clothes and Gore-tex coats. No, none of the 1,350 local residents dress in period clothing but if they did, you wouldn’t be surprised.
We strolled town and snapped too many old building and garden photos. The long summer days here really makes the gardens shoot up fast – Nancy admitted that she couldn’t live here as the “garden envy” would be too much. I think she’s out in our cottage garden pulling weeds right now. I think that’s part of the Peterson DNA. Small sample of the town photos follows.
Aside from the old buildings and gardens, Evandale is also known for hosting the Australian National championship Penny Farthing cycle races. They date back to the 1960s and are held every year in February (they are cancelled in 2021 due to Covid). Even though it is the Australian championships, racers come from all over the world with the event being recognized by Guinness Book of Records as the largest Penny Farthing race anywhere in the world.
A Penny Farthing, also known as a high-wheeler, is one of those funky old-time bikes with a giant front wheel and small rear wheel. There is no chain or gears as riders simply turn cranks directly connected to the big front wheel. The big wheel can be very big – big is faster but less stable – great skill is required to race a big wheel rapidly around the town circuit. Since the bikes are more or less from the 1880, they have hard rubber tires – making a harsh ride even harsher. And boy, wouldn’t those large wheels make flying with your bike difficult? Somehow, people come from all over the world for the February race. I have no idea how they get their bikes here.
Images of the penny farthing grace many local shops. Most of the buildings pre-date the penny farthing period but no one wants to miss out on the marketing cache that comes with the big race. For the record, other than signs, we didn’t see a single penny in town today. I guess we’ll have to come back in February 2022.
In addition to old buildings and Penny Farthings, Evandale also bills itself as the gateway to Ben Lomond National Park. Ben Lomond is the most remote park in the north east of Tasmania. Since riding here in the rain gave us an extra day, tomorrow we’ll be taking a spin out to check it out. Well, it’s more than a spin as the ride we’ve mapped out has some 1,500 meters of climbing but we get to ride without our bags which should make it easier.
While the colonists arrived in 1803, much of the Ben Lomond area remained unexplored until the early 1900s. Before then a group of nomadic Aboriginal tribes used the area in summers. They were last seen in coastal areas in the 1830s – lost through The Black Wars and European diseases. The lack of human presence was probably good for the area as even today it remains mostly natural and wild. Ben Lomond National Park was officially formed in 1947. Roads in the park remain unsealed and visitor numbers quite small. They ski there in the winter with several of the peaks in the park reaching just over 5,000 feet. But don’t think big European style ski resorts – they have three t-bars and a few poma lifts. For the skiers out there, when’s the last time you rode a t-bar?
I don’t think (hope) we’ll see snow tomorrow but you never know. They say you can get 4 seasons any day of the year in Tasmania, especially if you go to the high country. Whatever we find, I’m sure it will be an adventure. Details to follow.