When I woke up this morning, I knew that today was going to be a tough day. Firstly, today’s stage was rather long (84 km) and continuously hilly, with probably around 1500m of cumulated elevation gain. Secondly, the weather forecast looked a bit scary: strong headwinds, 100% chance of rain, and snow above 1000m! Knowing that, I ate a gigantic breakfast that was so nicely completed by some scramble eggs and toasts kindly offered by my camping neighbours. During the first two hours I rode in sunny conditions, but I had to fight very hard against the wind for each kilometre. I was thinking that riding such a hilly road with such a strong headwind was probably the worst that you could get: you just have no rest! During the steep climbs, I was more or less protected from the wind, but once at the top, I was constantly “welcomed” by this treacherous wind!
At the bottom of today’s most difficult ascent (500m elevation in 5-6 km), I took a break to eat some energy bars and have a look at the high voltage substation nearby (it is not because I am in career break that I am not interested by the energy sector anymore).
I had begun the climb since less than 2 minutes when the weather changed dramatically: suddenly, I was biking under pouring rain and the temperature had plunged with 10 degrees, while the wind was still as strong as before. It is in these horrible conditions that I overtook Sarah, a young English women who was also travelling with her bicycle around Tasmania. I think that we both were very happy to have someone to share this difficult experience with. We began to talk together in this steep climb with the storm around us, as if we were comfortably seated in a café. Such a weird and unique moment! We biked together for about 15 km, then separated: Sarah wanted to stop at Tarraleah, while I decided to bike the extra 40km to Derwent Bridge. I was soaked anyway, and this would allow me to avoid an extra climb to get out of Tarraleah. Moreover, I knew that I could eat a delicious curry and warm myself at Derwent Bridge Hotel. Hence, I took the Fourteen Miles Road,!a relatively flat gravel road, still biking under showers and with only 4-5 degrees. For the first day since my arrival in Australia, I would really have given a fortune to be at home in my nice and warm apartment, eating delicious croissants and viennoiseries! In these conditions, you really don’t enjoy yourself on the bike, because there is nothing to see and the only thing that matters is “going further and surviving”. Despite the adverse weather, I took a short break to eat an avocado, a banana and some chocolate. By experience, I know that it is better than trying to save a few minutes in the cold and risking a fringale.
After a long fight against the elements, I finally made it to Derwent Bridge, soaked, frozen and exhausted. Sadly, the hotel was full and I quickly realised that it was technically not possible to pitch my tent on the hotel parking as I had expected. Fortunately the hotel staff gave me directions to a spot where I could wild-camp and let me dry my clothes near their fire. I was not the only of my kind: many hikers who had completed the Overland Track today were as soaked as me, and all the area around the hotel’s big fireplace was a nice mess of wet shoes and clothes!
Because of the rain, I did my fastest tent pitch so far on a wet grassy spot covered with lots of wallaby poo. Then I put warm dry clothes on and went back to the hotel to eat a delicious pork curry. This felt so good after such a tough day!