as legendary as the tassie mountain biking is, we also wanted to see what tje north east of tasmania is like. kris & nat had travelled through there earlier, but i had only ever been to the south, around hobart.

rather unromantically perhaps, i had always thought of tasmania a cold & wet. it is true that antarctica is tassie’s direct neighbour, and the prevailing winds tend to be rather strong and cold, but on the other hand it’s on the same latitude as the mediterrenean. would you think of rome as cold & wet?

probably not. and as for wet: australia’s been in draught for the last four years, sydney dam levels are down below 50% and while the coastal stretch gets a bit of rain every now and then the trails around here are dry & slippery, too.

tasmania does get a fair bit of rain, but we learned that the north east in particular is fairly well sheltered. the weather is mostly coming in from the west and the mountain ranges inland catch the precipitation.

nice theory? it did rain a bit while we were there but more in an on-again-off-again way. the other positive we found was that even though there is only 70km and an hour between st helens and derby it appears that rain in one place doesn’t necessarily mean the other one is unpleasant as well.

that’s great news for riding of course: plenty of choice. and while derby is rocks and dirt, st helens is sandy and should drain well. we didn’t have time to test the theory, while we were there the weather was generally pleasant.

that said it is clear that while much of australia blissfully ignores ideas like insulation, double glasing or proper heating, tasmanian mornings are nothing to sneeze at.

it does feel a bit like back home but with one very positive difference: the trees here don’t shed their leaves in winter, and the landscape stays alive. i am not sure i could get used again to the bare sticks trees turn into in europe.

then there are the granite boulders complete with bright red lichen on it. this looks especially good at sunset. kris has a knack for finding great looking old trees that look great in pictures.

i had a bit of school work to do and the girls used the time to check out the neighbourhood. st helens is located around a bay which has a narrow connection to the sea. on the south side is a peninsula leading out to st helens point. kris says there are huge sand dunes out that way.

towards the north is the famous bay of fires area. there is a walk along the coastline which starts at binalong bay, less than half an hour from st helens. binalong bay is a beautiful starting point for such an adventure, much in the same way as swimcart beach (on the way out past binalong) is a great way to end the epic bike ride down from blue tier.

of course we can never stop anywhere without paying a visit to any wildlife park in the area. as it happened there was one not too far away, in bicheno (we still have no idea how that is actually pronounced).

wombats are cute little tanks. most wombats here are accident survivors, some will be able to be re-released but the girls were told that those that had to stay too long or were brought in too young will not be able to fend for themselves and have to be kept in indefinite detention. poor little guys.

spotted quolls, also known as australia’s cats, also live in the area. on the mainland they are endangered but from what we hear from the locals (if you are not careful they eat your chickens) they seem to be in good health in tassie.

it’s smaller cousin, the eastern quoll. nat thinks they are cute. i think it depends on your perspective, i.e. mostly about your own size and sharpness of your teeth. i’d hate to be a small possum with these things around.

this joey should be safe. it looks like it’s going to be kicked out of the pouch soon.

cute but not cuddly. this juvenile echidna was actually not in the park, we met him when he tried to cross the road near weldborough but did so in a very unsafe manner. we stopped and nat ushered the little guy off the road. after she made sure he was ok we let him proceed but nat loves the idea of caring for injured wildlife.

i’m sure she would be a great wildlife carer. if only we had a little extra space.