(December 28 2020 – written by Dave)
We were both pretty tired and hit the bunk beds early in our tiny little donga. I got the top bunk (or should I say, had to take the top bunk – once north of 50 years old, climbing into a top bunk is not as much fun as it was when one was much younger). The bottom mattress was normal, the top mattress was just downright odd. It was made of some sort of memory foam and evidently had been slept in by a large round person. I was sort of swallowed up in a giant centre bowl. And yes, climbing in and out of the bunk in the middle of the night was less fun than I remember. Anyway, it was dry and there was a certain smugness that came when we heard rain teeming down on the roof.
Surprisingly, we woke to stunning blue skies this morning. I was up early, ready for my time in the foam trap to be over but this morning, Nancy didn’t mind. There is something about blue skies when a chance of rain is forecast. You want to get up and start riding as soon as possible so as to take advantage of the sunshine. We made quick work of brekkie and were on the road before 8AM – pretty good for us.
Today’s ride had no flat, we had 5k uphill to start, then 5k downhill, then 31k of uphill. Yup, that’s 36k of uphill for those keeping track. Having clear skies meant that it was a little chilly and we were actually happy to be going up for the first spell. Even within the first hour, you could see that clouds were going to form but at least for that hour we had a lot of sun – perfect.
The 5k downhill to the River Forth was fast and pretty steep. We had to climb 5k of equally steep to get back up the other side. It was nowhere near as steep as yesterday’s climbs but our legs were still stiff from yesterday. It was just slow and steady. At the top of the climb we joined the main road into the park and picked up a little more traffic. We’d only travelled 15k at this point but decided that morning tea was in order, stopping at the Cradle Forest Inn – everything out here is called Cradle something or other.
From tea we had a couple pinchy climbs but overall, the last 26k were the easiest climbing of the day. It was slow and clouds were starting to build. We had one short section of wet road and we could see a small local rain squall moving away from us but we never got any rain ourselves. The terrain up here was definitely alpine with scrub trees and grasses. We had a headwind for most of the climb but it wasn’t too bad as we were already slowed by the climbing.
Traffic was heavier but mostly polite. They have heaps of signs on the roads in Tassie stating that cyclists must be given 1.5 metres. Some drivers can’t seem to read these signs or simply choose to ignore the law. The locals always blame the tourists and we did have one motor home (probably a tourist) pass us too close but for a road leading to a national park, it was not too bad.
We reached the Cradle Mountain visitor centre before noon, too early to check into our cabin, so we stopped and had toasties and coffee. The centre just opened in January 2020 and is very well done (there you go, something good that happened in 2020, how about that). We understand that some Tassie old-timers feel that the new centre and all the new boardwalk trails have forever changed the nature of Cradle Mountain but for us, having not seen the “old days”, the work they’ve done to the park is great. They seem to have put a lot of thought into managing large number of people coming here in a way that it won’t completely destroy the good bits – it is always hard to get the balance right on these things.
We only had to ride across the street to reach our cabin in the woods – Cradle Mountain Highland Cottages. We had a really nice, new and cosy cabin at the end of the road. They even had the stove lit for us when we arrived – perfect.
After getting cleaned up and seeing that the weather was holding, we decided to take on a couple of the park walks. We took the shuttle bus out to The Enchanted and King Billy Trails. It took us about 1.5 hours to walk both of them and we are happy to report that they are very well built. Mostly we walked on boardwalks or steps but to manage the volume of visitors, it really is the only way to go.
We particularly enjoyed the King Billy track as in part, I think we were the only ones walking it. The track took us up through an impressive King Billy tree stand where a couple springs appeared to come out of the ground. There was more moss than you’d find in an Oregon rainforest (that’s a lot). We couldn’t help get the feeling that if we stayed stationary for too long, we’d be covered by fresh new moss growth within minutes.
Tomorrow we head for the Dove Lake loop. We’ve heard that it is nice and from the lake you get great views of Cradle Mountain – if it isn’t raining. The forecast for the morning is good so fingers crossed. In another tip of the hat to the parks folks, they have a shuttle bus that runs punters up into the park. We are right near the first station and hope to be on the first bus heading up. Check back tomorrow to see if Cradle Mountain makes an appearance.