As always, I'd like to write something profound here that does justice to my experiences and it never seems to come out right (or at all) so I'll just go with a simple chronological retelling of my week in the west of Tasmania.
Leading up was a really busy and stressful week and I didn't think I'd get all my uni work, necessary catch-ups, packing and preparation for a bike trip done but don't we all always somehow manage? Not long after my last class last Thursday I was picking my brother up from fashion week to take me to the airport, accidentally pulling up in the taxi area where a well-dressed long queue were waiting, managed to 'sweet talk' the angry car ushers by saying I've got deliveries (pointing to my bike's box in the back) and finally just making it to the airport.
I met up with my friend, another Aussie I met at my university in Austria, who's also back now and currently cycling around Aus for a few months. We set off from Launceston on Friday (after a visit to the Country Women's Association store and a few lemon and coconut slices) and the plan was to head towards Cradle Mountain National Park - a place I'd never heard of but apparently is quite well known. I had a semi-conscious goal with this trip to gain (or rediscover) an appreciation for Australian nature. I think I somehow trained my brain to appreciate European beauty and I had grown to largely disregard the Australian wilderness unless there was an ocean in sight, something which I hated and really wanted to change.
The first night we camped at Mole Creek, a small town where we camped for free at the back of the local pub/hotel and could use the hotel's hot showers for $2 - score! We used an amazing App called WikiCamps that shows you all campsites on a map, many of which are free in Tasmania. That night I got a rude shock that I packed much too lightly for the cold nights - my thin summer sleeping bag and few jumpers weren't quite sufficient for the very low temperatures. Every following night I'd put literally all my clothes on, wrap myself in an emergency space blanket (that I thankfully bought last-minute in Launceston), get into my 'thermal' sleeping bag liner then wiggle into my sleeping bag. Every time I moved it sounded like a thousand crinkly shopping bags.
The next day we visited amazing Marakoopa caves on the way (saw glow worms for the first time!) and started the long climb towards Cradle Mountain. Day 2 was one of the most mentally and physically challenging days of my life. My left knee had started to hurt a lot towards the end of the previous day (later discovered that it was probably due to my saddle being too high - derp) and by 20km into the second day it was almost unbearable. Very long story short; it had gotten dark, Wolfmother were screaming down my ears to no avail, we had still not finished the huge climb and morale was pretty low but we eventually came to an intersection with a B&B. The nice lady said we could pitch our tents out of sight behind one of the buildings, we filled our water bottles and ate the only food we had - oats with Tasmanian honey and tea. The next day the climb was relatively okay to the entrance of the Park and we decided to 'splurge' and pay for the paid campsite nearby for the warm showers and kitchen.
Will be continued soon