Cycling Tasmania – Day 23
Waratah to Corinna
68km, 1,290m elevation
It was a difficult decision but I couldn’t resist heading deeper into Tasmania’s remote West Coast, even if that means I’ll run out of time to cycle a complete loop around the island. The Tarkine Wilderness is one of the world’s last intact expanses of temperate rainforest, something truly rare and beautiful. How could I turn down the opportunity to experience such a special place?
I took my time leaving Waratah this morning, waiting for the sun to hit the historic Bischoff Hotel, where we spent the night. Waratah once had many hotels and pubs, filled with miners at the end of a hard day’s work. Now, the population is one tenth what it once was but the Bischoff gives you a feel of life in those rough and rugged days.
I hadn’t pedaled more than one minute when I stopped to visit an old stamper mill. This little contraption was used well after the mine closed to crush rock brought in by independent prospectors.
The road leaving Waratah is quiet and fairly flat, passing through open land then heading into the forest. After a short distance I stopped at Philosopher Falls, named after James ‘Philosopher’ Smith, the father of Tasmania’s mining industry. James was abandoned as a child by his convict parents but fell in love with Tasmania’s West Coast and became the first person to discover deposits that turned into the world’s largest tin mine. Tasmania was suffering a serious depression at the time and just couldn’t shake off its convict past. There was talk of being annexed by Victoria, its nearest neighbour. Smith’s discovery breathed new life into the island and its people and changed the course of history forever. Philosopher Falls is the place where Smith made that discovery and it’s a lovely walk through ancient temperate rainforest.
After the falls, the road swoops down through endless drops and turns into a valley. Here the forest is so present that trees sometimes grow right over the road and you feel as if you’re riding through a green tunnel. Huge firns and towering gumtrees give the forest a prehistoric feel. Like my friend Rob says, it’s a place where you could imagine seeing dinosaurs roam – true wilderness!
Lots of big undulations follow as the road climbs back up onto another open plateau. The views are amazing.
It was a hot and muggy day. The sun was particularly intense but before long the humidity built up into dark stormy clouds. It looked like I was going to get soaked as heavy rain moved closer and closer.
Beyond the mining town of Savage River, the sealed road turns to silica (sourced from a local mine). Silica is bright white and even with dark storm clouds approaching, it reflected sunlight back at me like freshly fallen snow.
Amazingly, the storm never quite seemed to catch up with me. It blew right by, letting bright sunshine return. Silica makes for a better road surface than gravel but you still need extra care and attention, especially on the downhills. From Savage River, the road undulates for a while then plummets down to the tiny village of Corinna.
There’s a barge that takes vehicles across the river at Corinna and you can continue on from here back to Strahan and Queenstown (where I was a few days ago) but I’m going to stay in Corinna to soak in more of the Tarkine Wilderness.
If you’re planning your own cycling trip in Tasmania, you can see today’s track and download the gpx from strava.