Tasmania’s Great Eastern Drive by bike – Part 4

Day 13 – Bicheno to Douglas Apsley National Park (7.5 km/4.5 miles cycling, 6 km/3.5 miles walking) 
What happens when you are concentrating hard, cycling along a mostly uphill unsealed road, trying to avoid the worst of the pot holes, corrugations and deep gravel edges… then you come across a slight descent and pedalling isn’t required? You get cocky, speed up and take a tumble of course. Well you do if you’re me. This occurred on the way to Douglas Apsley National Park. Fortunately I controlled the fall as best I could and only grazed my leg on the pedal. No harm done.

Bicheno to Douglas Apsley National Park


Unsealed road into Douglas Apsley National Park

The national park is 7 km/4 miles inland from the main coastal road, but I made my mind up that I had to pay it a visit. One, because I’d read and heard that the waterhole and gorge are lovely, and it would make a change from coastal scenery. And two, because my late Grandad’s name was Douglas and he lived very close to a place called Apsley in Hertfordshire (England), so it was slightly apt and reminded me of him.
I am so pleased I made the detour. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have encountered a great Aussie guy who was cycle-touring the east coast (in the opposite direction) who gave me some great hints and tips. I also would not have completed the fabulous 6 km Apsley River Waterhole and Gorge walk. The first half of the walk was through forest and you could either return to the waterhole the same way or do a circuit, following the gorge. I had company for the second half of the walk. A German hitchiker was intent on completing the circuit as well as I, so we boulder-hopped together through the gorge back to camp.

Apsley Gorge

Camping is permitted for free in the forest near the waterhole. A long-drop toilet is provided. It’s an amazing spot (…the whole camp not just the dunny!).


Douglas Apsley National Park free camp

Day 14 – Douglas Apsley National Park to St Marys (45 km/28 miles cycling)
I was proud of myself today; I very nearly let people’s views on the internet dissuade me from visiting St Marys, due to the two challenging and dangerous routes there. The small township is off the main road up in the hills, reached by either the 17 km/10.5 mile steep and winding ‘Elephants Pass’, or the 9 km/5.5 mile, also steep and winding ‘St Marys Pass’.
 I was undecided whether to take on the challenge of one of the mighty ascents or not, but when I arrived at the junction to the Elephants Pass I thought “ahh sod it, I’m going to go for it!”. And I’m so glad I did. It was hard work, no doubt about that, but no worse than the road I conquered from Bruny Island up to Fern Tree and to South Hobart. The perspiration was testament to my toil, and I had to have a refuel of cheese and crackers part-way up, but the fern-lined roads were gorgeous and the meal at the Purple Possum Cafe in St Marys when I arrived was well worth the effort!

Up I go!

My camping spot was at the recreation ground – free overnight stays, flushing toilets and hot showers ($2 for 2 minutes). Perfect.

In the evening I was warned to “be careful” and “watch out” – by a local man who was caravanning with his wife – once I’d answered his questions about being alone. I replied by assuring him that I am as careful as I can reasonably be and thanked him for his concern, but he then proceeded to inform me about the mystery of two young females – one who was murdered and the other disappeared without trace – just down the road 25 years ago. Neither case has ever been solved.

I had actually been briefly told about these tragedies when I arrived in Tasmania, but I really needn’t have been reminded. Why do people feel the desire to scare you with these crimes when you are quite happy being ignorant to them? Ignorance is bliss as they say.

My response regarding the information being told to me was that if I worried about these things – and anything else that could possibly occur – then I wouldn’t ever do anything; I’d prefer to live a full life and experience adventure than to be scared to venture out my front door.

 I am pretty well-travelled, and in my personal experience the majority of human beings are helpful, kind, generous souls. Yes, there are some nasty people out there, but they are the minority and being fearful of them is a waste of precious energy which could be put to better use.
Thanks for reading. Part 5 coming soon.

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