Binalong Bay to Campbell Town via Ben Lomond
When I woke up it was still dark, so I used the opportunity, grabbed my camera bag and tripod and walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise over the Bay of Fires. It was spectacular and it’s one of my favourite things to do when I am camping at remote beaches. The weather had changed overnight, the wind was gone and the sky was clear.
I wasn’t hungry so I packed up without cooking breakfast and planned to eat something in a café along the route instead. It looked like such a great day that I wanted to get going quickly and make my way to Ben Lomond where I wanted to see Jacobs Ladder, which is the name of a small, steep, serpentine-like section of road just before the top of the mountain.
One of the downsides of camping in remote places and leaving he bike outside at night is that it can be full of little surprises in the morning. Surprises like the giant huntsman spider I found under the seat, which then went hiding in one of the many cavities around the tank, and I haven’t seen it since…
In St Helens I stopped for petrol and checked for the best route to Ben Lomond. It seemed best to ride to Scottsdale, up the hill to the Sideling lookout and then after 30km take the Camden Hill gravel road across the hills. By now the Hyperstrada had handled so many kilometres of gravel road so well that I didn’t have any concerns.
The road to Scottsdale was very scenic and the landscape quickly changed from coast and sea to hills, tree plantations and dairy farms. And it was a lot of fun to ride on curvy roads snaking up and down the hills, and surprisingly little traffic — apart from the odd caravan or log truck.
In Scottsdale I stopped at a bakery to have something to eat and later to get petrol. The weather was still great then, only the wind gusts from the previous days has returned.
The road up to the Sideling lookout must have been one of the most amazing riding roads in Tasmania. So amazing that my boots were sliding on the ground in some corners.
After some 30km I took the turnoff to Camden Hill Rd. It was a gravel road in fairly good condition — first steep up the hill, then past tree plantations, remote farms and shacks. One of the highlights of this trip happened when I was riding uphill and suddenly there was a huge Wedge-tail Eagle feeding on a dead wallaby in the middle of the road. The noise from my bike scared off the bird, but it was so slow to get going and gain height that for several seconds it was flying right in front of me. It must have had a wingspan of two metres and was a majestic creature. Eventually it sat down on a tree branch and I stopped right in front of it — awe-inspiring to see this large eagle from such close distance.
The gravel road entered the main road again only a few metres away from the Ben Lomond turnoff — that shortcut worked out perfectly. The road up to Jacobs Ladder was very easy, but unfortunately the top of the mountain was covered in thick clouds that were blown over the road by strong winds, a scene like in some kind of mystery movie. I briefly stopped at the start of Jacobs Ladder and considered returning because the clouds were so thick that visibility was only 20m. It seemed unlikely that conditions were any better at the top, but then, you never know for sure unless you try. And so I rode to the top, only to find that conditions were the same and it was freezing cold. I took a few quick photos purely to document the conditions, and then went back down, slightly disappointed. Without the clouds it would have been an amazing view from up there.
Before the trip I had been in contact with Craig, an old friend who lived about an hour away in Campbell Town, and he had offered me to stay with them for the night, but I was still awaiting confirmation. I didn’t really have a plan B other than riding towards Launceston possibly. I checked out the beautiful free camping area a bit further down the mountain at Ben Lomond and briefly thought about staying there, but then at the last minute I got a message from Craig. Once again everything had worked out well and I looked up the route to Campbell Town on my phone.
The route took me across many back country roads, lots of gravel, some tiny settlements and past many paddocks and fields. At times I was shocked at the amount of roadkill alongside the roads, literally every 20-30m there was a dead wallaby, possum or even, sadly, a wombat. Sometimes it felt like a war zone. I know Tasmania has a lot of small nocturnal wildlife, but much of that roadkill in rural areas can probably be attributed to four wheel drives and farm utes travelling at high speeds after darkness.
The last few kilometres were on the highway and I arrived at Campbell Town just when it got dark. It was great catching up with Craig after so many years.