At the bottom of the world with nothing between it and Antarctica, Tasmania is a rugged island sitting at the off of Australia's south coast. It's quiet, raw and totally remarkable. Home to a string of elite cyclists and widely celebrated climbs, Tasmania's reputation in the cycling world is continuing to swell - deservingly so. Yet, the largely unpopulated wilderness, protected within national parks and reserves, means there's still much to explore. So we packed up and headed down to a remote part of Western Tasmania and still can't believe what we found.
History is telling -
Experience at your own risk!
In 1822, eight convicts escaped from the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on the West Coast of Tasmania. Fleeing from what was known as one of the most brutal penal settlements in the country, they ventured into the rugged and remote bushland of the West. Despite their bold ambitions and hardened character, the men were no match for the harsh and untouched wildland. Starving and consumed by exhaustion, they would slowly succumb to the wilderness, and eventually – one by one – to each other.
"As I packed my bike before flying to Tasmania for the next MAAP field trip, I knew that what awaited us would be something truly unforgettable."
"And I hoped, as we too rode into the wild, that our fortunes faired better than the convicts all those years ago."
Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the unique adventure that lay ahead. Empty silent roads, ancient mountains, bright starry nights…the Tassie field trip wasn’t going to disappoint.
Where the road ends, so does civilisation.
Heading out west from Hobart, beyond the small town of New Norfolk, is a narrow winding road named Gordon River Road. The road, spanning nearly 170 km in length, is a highway to nowhere: a dead-end road that cuts deep into the Tasmanian wilderness,
snaking, dipping, twisting and climbing, until eventually reaching the tiny settlement of Strathgordon and the monumental Gordon Dam.
Where the road ends in Strathgordon, civilisation ends too. Here, there are only the mountains, towering tall and brave above everything else, and the great expanse of Lake Pedder – an impossibly still body of water, mirroring the untouched beauty
around its banks.
Crammed into a van with half the MAAP crew, music humming from the speakers, we drove into the wilderness, towards the place at the end of the road. Bikes, kit and gear were packed in boots and they filled out the trailer behind. It could mean only one thing, the next field trip was officially underway.
The population of Strathgordon experienced a steep incline when the eight of us arrived in our navy green van. The few locals were surely taken aback by us: a mix of Australians from all corners of the mainland, a tall rockstar-looking
Scotsman known as Monty (who recently moved from Dubai to Italy), and a couple of Californians (one now living in Melbourne and the other about to head to South Korea to shoot the Winter Olympics). We must have looked like some
kind of circus rolling into town. Yet, this is at the heart of the
MAAP field trips – they’re a collision of different worlds and people, drawn
together by the love and adventure of the ride.
An hour later, Scott Bowden – a bonafide Tasmanian and professional cyclist for the Bennelong SwissWellness team – clambered into Strathgordon with his old school (and well-loved) Toyota Camry. You could tell this was Scotty’s stomping grounds as soon as he arrived: only a local Tasmanian could feel so at home in a place like this. The small chat could wait, he told us, there were more important tasks at hand. It was time to explore. It was time to ride.
"While riding, you notice the
quietness first. It was just us, no one else.
It’s jarring at first."
"There was no rumble of car engines, the road in front of us was bare and vacant of any real sign of human life. In truth, there were no sounds of civilisation at all, just our spinning wheels. A we rode further into the national park, we lit up and rightly celebrated the carless roads and expansive wild bushland."
Wait, no cell service? No WIFI?
I thought it was a joke at first.
“There’s no working wifi at the hotel,” Monty said when we arrived back, “and there’s no phone reception here either.”
Surely I had just misunderstood his thick Scottish accent. Where were the sub-titles?! But he smiled at back me, nodding.
“I’m serious, there’s nothing,” he confirmed.
Just like that, we were disconnected from the world. I couldn’t help but think back those convicts in 1822, and how they too didn’t have any internet… and, well we know how that ended. Yet despite this initial anxiety, the unexpected digital detox became a release for everyone: no longer tied down by the busy digital world, we were just left with each other, our bikes and the never-ending Tasmanian wild. What could go wrong?