"the magical haven of fresh air, thrilling rides, cosy nights and a general ambience of happiness, fun and anticipation."
Five families, gaggles of kids from 5 to 17, the Dales now feels like a regular shack as we pull into the driveway and everyone slides seamlessly into a rhythm, picking up from where we left off last trip. It’s just like coming home.
With the four hour drive from Hobart behind us (rendezvous in Campbell Town for Zeps coffee and Baba’s Kebab), we unpack and settle in, with the usual scramble to claim favoured bunks. The bike shed is packed to the brim, groceries are packed away, drinks fridge is stocked and the fire is lit.
Everyone settles in to unwind from hectic lives left behind in the south.
Work is forgotten, first cans of 23 Stitches Pale are cracked and multiple bottles of Tasmanian Gin are lined up to await their fate. A rescued orphan baby wombat is swaddled and tucked up for the evening. Not one kid asks where is the TV. A collective inaudible sigh of relief emanates from the grown-ups.
A rogue grown-up sneaks away at day break for a road ride to Weldborough, while the rest drag themselves from slumber feeling a little dusty from ‘first-night-fever’. Egg and bacon rolls are prepared in the generous kitchen to fuel bodies for a full day of mtn biking ahead. It’s a ‘blue bird’ day, the excitement is palpable. Riders kit up with knee pads, helmets, water bottles and the mandatory party mix to get the little kids through the ride. The little ones hit the pump track, the oldies warm up with Flickety Sticks and the teens head straight for (no prizes for guessing) … Air Ya Garn.
This time we are all a bit forlorn to hear that Lower Air Ya Garn and Axehead have suffered significant landslides and will be out of action for this trip (hats off to the trail workers for the repairs they have achieved so far, no mean feat).
Refuel for lunch and the afternoon trails are planned, re-scoped, re-jigged and set upon. Snig Track, Kingswall, the trails are riding well despite the recent heavy rains. Our rescue baby wombat has final gentle cuddles, and is delivered safely in the hands of carers at Animal Rescue.
Tired and weary riders return at the end of the day, grateful for a few extra runs thanks to daylight saving. Bikes washed down and parked in the garage, bodies showered, clothes on wash cycle, scraps and scrapes mended, we all settle in for a Mexican dinner, washed down with more Tassie craft beers and Gin. No one misses out on the frivolity and as the night draws on the trails get steeper, the jumps get higher and the runs get quicker as we relive the day on the trails.
Another sluggish start to the morning for many (not the kids, they are early and eager!) as we load up on eggs and bacon for another big day.
An Atlas mission is on the cards, as the logistics are carefully plotted and planned, to get our peloton of 20+ riders (youngest 7 yrs) to the trail head along 16km of gravel roads. Shuttle cars are organised, the kids swap seats and cars a few times before we are ready to hit the road. A beautiful trail with some gorgeous views, balance logs and tricky rock ‘features’ (read: *hazards*) test our mettle. A few scratches and bruises are collected, but nothing too serious. A misty rain hangs over Derby which makes for a cooler ride and an eerie atmosphere.
An afternoon of choose-your-own-adventure, the teens hit the trails and the Dad’s take the e-bikes to the trail head to collect the cars. The girls head to the Derby Sauna for some refreshing RnR, sweating it out in the 85deg sauna before plunging into the lake. Head back ‘home’ for a glass of bubbles on the deck to round off the afternoon.
Family roast for dinner, the Minions are on wash up duty before they can enjoy marshmallows toasted on the fire. The older kids head out for a night ride with torches charged and strict rules about jumps and tricks (probably ignored!). Toasted marshmallows are followed by board games and high jinx.
No end to the laughs with the never-ending game of *Taboo*.
We wake to the sound of pitter patter on the roof, the heavy rains have well and truly set in overnight. The river is up and the hardy riders set off to make the most of the open trails. A gnarly ride from Black Stump, Upper Air Ya Garn onto Lower Flickety only to get to the Junction to find the river swollen and no way to cross to Devils Wolf. Turn around for a slog up Long Shadows to Jumps Crossing for a speedy run down the road hitting some high speeds. Muddy and happy, time for a coffee stop at Two Doors Down and a browse through the shops for some new threads. This time the bike wash station becomes the hose down for the muddy clothes as well.
A few riders head back to Hobart (to support Tassie’s JackJumpers) while another group set out to explore the nearby Little Blue Lake and Mt Paris Dam.
A first for all of us to hear and see a landslide above the lake as a result of excessive rains. The rumble of the ground shifting is slightly terrifying knowing the kids are out of various trails, fears eased only
when we are certain they are on the other side of the valley.
Our final night in Derby is rounded out with an evening meal at the Dorset Pub, followed by toasted marshmallows and plenty more tall stories. We draw the night out into the early hours, not wanting our time at Dales of Derby to come to an end.
Our last morning we are up and out early to get the last rides in before the dreaded long ride home. The Dales is cleaned from top to bottom, stashed lolly wrappers removed from the bunk rooms, as the pile of lost property grows (mostly odd socks), ready to be claimed. Final showers for the muddy riders and we lock up and say goodbye with full hearts, happy smiles and longing to return sometime soon.
TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS:
Bring your Ugg boots
Marshmallows are mandatory
Order your groceries for a click and collect from Woolworths at Scottsdale.
Plan your meals, and necessary for kids to clean up
Bring coffee beans for fresh ground coffee in the top-notch coffee machine.
Always have a game of Taboo
Summer month bring bathers and Kayaks for a paddle in the river