Stanley. That lovely little village in the far north-west of Tasmania was giving us the perfect spot for a relaxing long weekend and we rolled on into a second day. What better way to start the day than a morning run around the surrounding area. Off I went into the darkness, with a faint glow emerging on the horizon as the sun gave its morning yawn and did its best to rise above the hills. Yes, hills. It was time to wake up the legs and huff up some steep inclines. The run around the streets and wharf area proved a nice gentle start and then I headed up into the farmland that looked down on the village and across to the grandness of The Nut. It was mild, it was peaceful and …here comes the first hill. Thankfully pretty short and sharp but still a darn fine example of steep. Up I went and then onto the slow climb across the top, with a beautiful view to the sunrise behind The Nut. These are the simple pleasures we need to take more time to notice and appreciate. Peace, quiet, a view, legs that can take me places and a beautiful sunrise. Lucky, grateful me.
I plodded past paddocks of cows, along quiet country roads until I saw a figure in the distance. Well, two figures actually, one two-legged and the other with twice as many. The lady was walking away from me with her little black Schnauzer and I knew if I ran up behind her, especially in this faint light, I’d probably give her a fright. I was just about to say “Good morning” which is what I say to anyone I come across, but when I come up behind people I usually get in early, from behind, so they hear my voice before they see a figure suddenly appear from nowhere. This time though, the little black set of whiskers on four legs heard me first. He turned to see what that road-slapping sound was and his finely tuned radar alerted the lady to my approach from the rear.
“Good morning,” I said to the lady, while her little four-legged companion, with a very impressive doggie moustache and beard, gave me a look of close inspection. I bobbed down to his level and reached out my hand which was eventually met with a tail wag and a look of acceptance. “Well done,” I said to him, “you’ve done your job, you’re on alert, good work,” and I gave him a pat and a scratch on the chin under that impressive beard.
“Oh, my dog heard you before me. We walk along here every morning,” the lady said.
I was still down on the ground at Schnauzer level, patting the little chap. “He did a good job,” I said, adding a pat and parting word to the little furry radar, “Well, you enjoy your stroll.” At which point the little dog turned and set off ahead of us both with an extra skip and jauntiness to his stride, as if he was showing his pride at having checked out a possible threat and could now trot off with the accomplishment of a job well done.
The rest of the 12km run took me down a long hill, then through the quiet streets of Stanley, with a few locals to exchange “Good mornings” with and then back to the cottage to see if Steve had arisen from the Land of Nod.
With the run complete and breakfast in the belly, it was time to climb. Climb The Nut. Scale the great rock. There is a chairlift to the top, but boo to that, we’re walkers. The path to the top is only 430 metres, zig-zagging up, but man-o-man it was steep. It wasn’t puff-inducing or anything like that, but it was steep enough to have to be walked up on tip-toes.
It was also very, very blustery, so we tippy-toed up the steep path with some pretty rude and pushy cross winds and eventually made it to the summit. We took the left fork in the path, for no other reason than I tend to choose left and headed off to the first lookout. Magic! A beautiful view across to Table Cape, with granite rocks below and the sun shining.
After taking in the view, I moved back to let some others get close to the rail and sat myself down on a nearby bench while I waited for Steve to finish his gazing. A lady walked towards me.
“That looks like a good idea,” she said and sat herself down beside me.
“It’s beautiful,” I remarked.
I could then see Steve walking away from the lookout and we were off.
“Well, the trek continues,” I said in parting to my bench companion, as I stood to move off.
She looked somewhat pained and warned, “It’s a long way mate, I’m tellin’ ya now.”
I thought of that remark as we strolled around the very gentle, very flat, very picturesque 2 km path around the top of The Nut. These things are very relative. It was really a very flat and easy walk, but a gentle 2 km stroll to us might be quite an ordeal for others. I applaud anyone who just gets out there in the wide world and nature and just walks. So good on her, my brief bench buddy.
The descent of the grand rock was even trickier than the climb because we still had steep, but we now had downward steep, with the added factor of gravity. It was a case of hit the brakes, lean back and try not to just tip head-over-heels down that hill. I leaned back and took the smallest, daintiest little pitter-patter steps that I could and managed the downhill very slowly like a cross between an en-pointe ballet dancer and someone attempting the limbo under a broomstick. I am nothing if not unintentionally entertaining for passers-by.
After a successful trot up and down the rock, we stopped for a cuppa and a spot of lunch at the cottage and then thought it was time to hit the wheels. We mounted our wheeled steeds and off we went, pedalling along by the water and then off towards more hills and the countryside around the lovely village. It turned out to be a nostalgic ride, for two reasons…wind and hills. Those two foes followed us all around Europe (so far no rain though!). It was a mighty effort, with head down and legs turning slowly as I tried desperately to fight into the very French-like winds that were fierce and strong and unrelenting. I popped my head up from the horizontal position occasionally to take in the surrounding view and make sure I was going in the right direction, since Steve was behind me and then we headed up the doozy of a hill. I had run up this trickster this morning, so I knew what we were in for and it gave us a very Portuguese feeling of a hill that caused the gears to be clicked, clicked and clicked again as we went down gears, turned the corner from the steep to the even steeper, as the gradient hit 12% and kept rising. Still, as we discovered in previous travels, hills eventually come to an end and the prize is always the view, which we had in spades. A glorious vista across the paddocks to The Nut in all its glory with the blue water around it. Gorgeous.
The other good thing about slogging uphill, is there will also, at some stage, be a downhill and after riding across the top of our plateau of roads surrounded by fields, we came to another very long and steep hill, but this time, we were starting at the top. I am fearless on the downhills, utterly fearless and I throw caution to the wind, laugh mockingly at the thought of brakes and just take off and let gravity drag me at high speed, with the adrenalin pumping and the wind-rush ironing out all the facial wrinkles I’ve acquired. Now… all of that is, of course, a complete and total lie and fabrication. I am the complete poster girl for scaredy cats on downhills and I set off at a meek pace, pumping the brakes the whole way down until I felt safely on flat terra firma again. Steve is the one with the brave and bold streak when it comes to descents and he let his wheels go at a rapid pace, only hitting the brakes to take in the final corner. I waited at the bottom, watching him as a blue streak bolting down hill, all the time I was just hoping a cross wind didn’t pull him off balance and he would make it to the bottom in one piece. He did of course. Wind hits Steve like a fairy breath hitting a brick wall, so he’s pretty impervious to the bluster and he rode that hill like a gold medal bobsledder.
We tootled around the village and then, for old times sake, we left the bikes against a pole and popped into a cafe for a cup of tea. Well, I had tea, Steve had a caramel almond-milk shake and unfortunately it wasn’t a tea room with crumpets, but it did the job, with a welcome little cuppa and pit stop after a blustery ride. There was no tent to be pitched afterwards, so we could head back to our little cottage and settle in for a relaxing remainder of the day.
There ended a lovely day in Stanley. Tomorrow we make the drive back home but Stanley gave us a perfectly delightful weekend. We had the full complement of running, riding and roaming, with some tea thrown in for good measure. These are the simple pleasures we love. Nothing fancy. Nothing that requires pots of money. Just experiences on foot and wheel, with company, conversation and a cup of tea. Perfect.
What simple pleasures might you enjoy today?