The Tassie Overnighter
Huts, cabins, bothies. I’m sure there are more names depending on the part of the world you hark from. Their rich history is an ongoing fascination of mine and considering current times, these little sanctuaries of shelter may be the ideal place to practice social isolation. Somewhere to retreat and weather the modern day storms the world is living through.
Depending on your situation, seeking isolation can raise complex questions. But for those in the know or if you’re willing to hunt and explore a little, there’s often a few forgotten places just an overnight trip away.
Constraint often provides an opportunity for inventiveness. Adhering to the current requirement to restrain from traveling and stay close to home has, for the moment, limited opportunities for cycling trips. But it has not completely put paid to adventure. The trouble is that if you are looking to get away locally and you arrive at your destination to find several other people having entertained the same idea, you might find yourself in a bit of an overpopulated pickle. I will be the first to admit that here in Tassie we do have an unfair advantage, given our easy access to secluded roads and wilderness. But even on the island at the bottom of the world, you still need to find the right spot.
Considering a radius of not more than 50 km from my house, I wanted easy access to secluded roads and trails once out of town with a destination guaranteed to be empty once I arrived. The option of a privately owned solution did cross my mind, but I decided instead to seek a hidden location. And if this proved to be on the side of a mountain, then more the better.
Fortunately for me, there are a few local huts long forgotten - some even condemned - if you know where to look. Their original intent was not as a bikepacking getaway but as shelter for the climbers and walkers of these mountains. Equally as foreboding as the sheer cliffs and steep scree, the Tasmanian weather can switch in the blink of an eye. One moment a pleasant camping experience, the next an opportunity to find God (this is a true story told to me and one I will pass on to you if ever our paths cross).
Following a series of switchbacks, taking a left at the fork in the road and at the last creek crossing, there it is. A structure you can rely on to be warm and dry against the uncertainty of the elements. Small and stout, it has stood resolute over time with an open fireplace to warm your body and soul. A wooden bunk or a bare earth floor are your bed for the night with small windows - some with glass, some not - affording glimpses of the outside world. A simple structure with the sole purpose of providing shelter. A retreat to weather the storm.
Adversity can take many shapes and forms, and I cannot complete this story without referencing the current requirement for forced isolation. For some having a negative connotation, isolation can also be a time for contemplation and therapy. It presents an opportunity to slow down, to reduce the white noise of everyday life—to such an extent that without these current constraints, the significance of this simple trip would be lessened.
If a night spent in the mountains is a beautiful thing, consider taking your next journey by bike following roads not always sealed. What better way to travel than self-supported in splendid isolation? And if you find yourself at the fork in the road and taking the last creek crossing, then I’ll leave a few firelighters and some dry matches above the fireplace. I’ll check in from time to time to make sure there is still enough for the next person seeking shelter. After all, it’s as good an excuse as any for me to visit this quiet place again.