(December 27 2020 – written by Dave)
Today has to start with last night. After we got the blog done and before we had dinner, I convinced Nancy to walk down by the river in search of the elusive platypus. We’d heard that you might see them in Deloraine. We were both tired and figured that we wouldn’t see anything. Given that the alternative was heading downstairs to the pub and have a pint, much convincing was required (Senior Editor’s note – of him, not me, just to be clear).
The platypus is one of two monotremes, mammals that lay eggs (the other being the echidna). They are about the size of a small rabbit, have webbed feet and a comically large duck-like beak. They range throughout Eastern Australia in the cooler areas living in rivers and ponds. They are nocturnal and known for being shy. The first time they were discovered by Europeans in 1799, a sample was stuffed and shown around the scientific community – many “experts” acclaimed that it was “fake”, made by sewing several animals together.
We’ve seen platypus in animal parks but never in the wild. So when we headed towards river, our hopes were not high. At the river, we found a surprisingly busy caravan park full of campers, dogs and even the odd river kayaker. We almost just returned straight to the pub. Almost out of obligation, we agreed to cross a high foot bridge and return to the hotel the longer direction -at least we would have a nice walk.
As we crossed the bridge, we noticed what looked sort of like a duck moving upriver towards us, except this duck was odd in that it didn’t really come out of the water. It just surfaced every 20 meters or so. Oblivious to the caravan park chaos, a platypus was working its way up river. We snapped a bunch of distant photos and waited quietly. Our new friend kept moving towards us, continuing to surface every 20 metres and finally right below us by the bridge. We took a bunch of photos then put the cameras down and just enjoyed our own little private show. Just like any mammal, the platypus blew bubbles as it moved under the water. We could track its movement by watching the bubbles. It surfaced a few times upriver beyond us then disappeared around the bend. Poor photos below – just to prove that it really happened. It goes without saying that we were glad we skipped the pub last night!
And onto today… The hotel was quiet and had a nice lounge where we ate dinner and brekkie. We didn’t see many other folks but I think a good number of the rooms were full. We had to navigate quite a few stairs to reach our room yesterday and then again in reverse today. It also took a while this morning to get all of our excess food strapped on the bike. Somehow, we still managed to be on the road by 8:30.
We rode back out through Deloraine and somehow snapped only one statue photo. We’d missed a few yesterday and it was tempting to stop and check them all out. About 1k from the hotel it started to rain but it was more spit than rain and didn’t last more a minute – good thing as the forecast was only for afternoon showers and most of our raingear was buried below the extra food.
We stopped about 5k from town again for photo of the first close up poppy farm that we’ve seen in Tasmania. We’d heard about Northwestern Tassie being home to a good number of medical poppy farms and actual saw a few distant fields of white blooms yesterday but were not sure what we were seeing. Today the road took us past one of the fields, complete with warnings about “dying if you try stealing and making your own opium”. Duly warned, we only took photos.
We spent most of the morning on the B12 and had minimal Sunday morning traffic. The rolling hils of this part of the country were ideal for cows and there were a lot of them out mooing. We looked for a coffee in the small hamlets of Chudleigh and Mole Creek but nothing was open – sort of expected for the Sunday between Christmas and New Years. We had enough food and water anyway so we just kept rolling.
The big excitement of the day came in crossing the Gog Mountain range. We knew from the Komoot profile that the road had two short, but steep climbs so we were prepared, mentally at least. The climbs weren’t too long at 4 and 2km each but boy were they steep. The first one had one section where we read 13% for well over a k and the second one had two pitches that took us up to 15%. It took some real grunting but we rode the whole thing – well done Nancy!
On way down coming off the ranges we passed another poppy field. This one was further from any towns and had no warning signs. It had an electric fence however. We stopped for photos and then pushed onwards to Gowrie Park. The last 10k were more up than down but had some rolling as well. We made it to the Gowrie Park Wilderness Park just as the skies opened with the hardest rain of the day.
We are staying a small, two bunk donga-like room that we booked a few days ago – they call these the backpacker rooms. They are very small, but we have managed to get the bikes and all of our gear inside. They have camping but didn’t have any unpowered sites left and wouldn’t rent powered sites to tenters – the gravel is too hard I guess. We’ve had several pelting swells of rain come through this arvo, making us quite happy that they don’t let tents camp in powered sites!
The dongas are all connected with doors that enter a shared covered area. It seems pretty busy, we aren’t expecting a quiet a night. There is some sort of wood chopper competition in Gowrie Park tomorrow so we’re hoping the choppers have an early night tonight at least. There is not much in Gowrie Park but it’s a stretch to call this place anything wilderness. Heck, they sell beer and wine in the park office – kind of an upgrade from any wilderness that I’ve been to.
Tomorrow we head to Cradle Mountain. It’s only 39k but most of it is uphill. I don’t think we’ll see any 15% grades but the climbs are longer. We are super happy that we’ll not have to pack up a wet tent in the morning, and our fingers are crossed for no rain.