The west coast of Tasmania is like the land that time forgot and presents riders with the ultimate adventure and we did it with West Coast Dirt Bike Adventures.
Tasmania really is something special, an incredible place that, if not for the cool and harsh climate, would be over-run with population and modernization. But it is that harsh environment and its isolation from mainland Australia that has helped preserve this dirt bike wonderland that West Coast Dirt Bike Adventures have to play with.
The north west of Tasmania is a wild place littered with incredible riding with everything from slippery clay tracks to rocky mountain trails, forgotten rain forests and some of the best beach and sand riding Australia has to offer. West Coast Dirt Bike Adventures is a relatively new trail tour company offering tours in the heartland of the north west of Tassie and I joined them for five incredible days that dished up just about everything you could ever imagine.
I was pumped for this ride. I have ridden in Tasmania before but never on the northwest coast and I had heard about the legendary sand riding. I flew from Melbourne to Burnie and a bunch of riders from Queensland’s Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast were on my flight. One of their mate’s had driven down with their bikes on a trailer to enjoy the crossing of Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania.
We checked into our accommodation and headed to the Stanley Hotel for dinner and to meet the riding group. Stanley is like a town stuck in time. If it wasn’t for the cars parked on the side of the street, you’d half expect to see a horse and cart roll through town.
I took the opportunity to quiz West Coast Dirt Bike Adventures tour guides Jason and Leigh on what was coming up for the next five days. There was a map of Tasmania on the bar wall which helped me understand just how remote we would be in the coming days.
I sipped a coffee the next morning on the balcony of our accommodation overlooking The Nut, a commanding sheer-sided bluff right in town. It’s Stanley’s answer to Uluru. We geared up and rode off into one hell of an adventure.
We set off in perfect riding conditions with cool weather straight into the action with some killer hill climbs and I was tested to my limits with plenty of pushing and leg paddling. The views were worth it at the top but not everyone made it. The steep inclines were exasperated by loose rocks but once I used my brain and selected the rain map on the Beta RR390 Racing, I found the traction I needed. Coming down wasn’t such a challenge but the thighs were burning well before I reached the bottom.
We crossed the Arthur River for the first time in an area called The Tarkine which is Australia’s largest expanse of cool-weather rain forest. It was like the land that people forgot and the tracks looked like they hadn’t been ridden in past 100 years. It was incredibly slippery but the tracks were spectacular and like nothing I had ridden ever before.
We crossed the Arthur River again and getting out on the other side was a mission. The track went straight up for around 50 metres but it was so slippery that a rope was used to hook around a footpeg and two other riders hauled the rope while we all did our best to lay down some subtle throttle searching for traction.
Not long after this a rider took an unspectacular spill and put an impressive S-bend in his wrist. Jason and Leigh swung into action on an emergency rescue plan. It began to rain and the temperature dropped. It got cold fast but after 190km we rode into Waratah for a great night at the Bischoff Hotel. The mission was on to dry our boots as best we could.
SLIP SLIDIN’ AWAY
I have never ridden anything as slippery as what I did on the first two days of this ride. Day-two began under threatening skies but we rode some great tracks. The ground was wet and every surface was slippery but it felt like we were the only people on Earth.
We followed an overgrown old tram line into an old mining area. The track was just wide enough to get an ATV through and it was great fun. The rain forest tracks showcased incredible vegetation. The colours ranged from lime green to dark green and the ground beneath us was untouched.
We rode up one track that was enveloped in trees with twists and turns to keep you on your toes. One rider from the Queensland group, Paddy, was riding a KTM 300EXC and was living it up. He emerged from one of the more technical tracks hooting at the top of his voice, “F@+k yeah. I’m movin’ here.”
We rode the track into the Montezuma Falls and it was like riding up Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. You just couldn’t avoid all of the puddles on the densely forested four-wheel-drive track. Standing at the bottom of the 104metre waterfall was well worth the effort. We clocked up 223km as we pulled up for the night in the coastal town of Strahan.
BEACHES AND BITTER COLD
The rain started as we finished breakfast on day three but no-one seemed to care as were bound for the beach. Riding wet sand is one of life’s greatest pleasures and we were like a pack of starving rabid dogs waiting to be unleashed on the pristine and deserted sands of Tasmania’s wild west coast.
After a leisurely 10km ride through town we hit the beach for a 40km stint that was bloody wild. At one stage I was at the back of the pack as everyone charged up the beach at speed. It was grey skies overhead but then the sun broke through the clouds to shine a light directly on the riders and I looked out to my left to see a rainbow over the ocean. I wanted to capture it on camera but it would have vanished by the time I managed to halt the charging bikes and get my camera out. It was one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time.
We took on Climies Track which is a famous coastal 4WD track for those who prefer the comforts of a LandCruiser. It’s pretty good fun for us dirt bikers too with it’s 20km of twists and turns and ups and downs over rocky peaks leading to the coastal town of Granville.
We charged further north reaching Pieman Heads then crossing the Pieman River on the Corinna Ferry. It was raining and cold so we stopped at the Corinna General Store to put on as much warm riding gear as possible and I took the chance to guzzle down what seemed like the best cappuccino I had ever had. Others stuffed their faces with chocolate, chips and few of the crew even knocked down a beer.
Our only option to reach our destination of Arthur River was the Western Explorer Highway which was 120km of pure freezing cold. Road riding on enduro bikes sucks at the best of times but when it is raining and the Roaring Forties wind cuts through to your core, it’s horrible. I had two under shirts, my jersey, armour, a garbage bag, enduro jacket and a rain jacket on and I began shivering uncontrollably.
We stopped for a quick refuel and support vehicle legend, “Fizz” loaned me another jacket to get to the end of the day. I’ve never been so cold on a bike before. It was a character-building experience.
As a local rider in our group said, “when riding in Tasmania make sure you have a really good jacket, and make sure you’re never too far away from it.”
We clocked 250km for the day by the time we reached our digs at Arthur River. It was a big one but a great day of riding.
Pretty much everyone changed their engine and gearbox oil and gave their bike a good check-over on the morning of Day-four. It was all sand starting with four-wheel-drive tracks out to the beach then a first-class beach run to some massive sand dunes. I mean massive. It was a free-for-all as we charged up them and down the other side.
We rode to the Sandy Cape light house and back and although it wasn’t a huge day on the bike, I was spent. I didn’t have much wind left in my sails by the end of the day but riding sand dunes that would dwarf the famous Big Red dune in the Simpson Desert was a real highlight for me.
Our final day began with a sweet coastal track dishing up more sandy conditions before we darted back into the bush on some super-fun but super-slippery forest tracks. We did our best to dodge the swirling rain clouds and as we rolled into our final destination of Smithton, the sun came out as if to welcome us back to reality after 139km of fun. What a ride. All 922km of it.
WORDS AND PHOTOS // TUFFY