It's funny how we come to be where we are sometimes. For this journey it started with an email to the Parks & Wildlife Department and the Ministers office purely out of frustration. This was over a dispute with an adjoining land owner over access through a section of crown land, which the Tasmanian Trail has been permitted to use for many years. This dispute an ongoing saga for almost 18 months with no sight in reach.
Thinking back on my email last week, I may have insinuated that if we hadn't heard from either office by Thursday the following week then we would ride down to their office in Hobart for a parlay.
Just so happens that no-one responded.
Given that we had talked the talk we were obliged to walk the walk, so off to Hobart we head. The Old Deloraine Road in all its beauty provides a nice peaceful ride away from the main road to Railton. Since the disputed area is on the Old Deloraine Road near Sassafras it is important that we navigate through to this location and later find a way around with the intention to veer off to the Bass Highway.
The way I see it, if a horse and its rider are always off the beaten track and not seen then we will one day lose the ability to travel freely on a horse as we do. Although road travel is not ideal, it is important to highlight our presence on roads but at the same time the importance of providing an alternative corridor of safe travel which is what we are about on this journey.
Along the way, we meet a local horseman who offers to bring a spot of feed for Coda which we gratefully accept. A little ways up the road we find a few biscuits of hay sitting up against a tree much to Coda's delight. It is the interesting characters we meet along our journeys who help make the trip more amazing and add to the narrative of our stories.
I have been honoured and privileged to travel many km's with Coda over the passing years. Miacoda is an amazing horse who is larger than life and as Coda would tell you 'Absolutely Fabulous'. It is her ability to bring the best out of people and a smile to life that warms the heart. If you bring her a treat she will even be your 'best friend ever' at least just for a moment.
We are fortunate to be able to travel both the highway and via quieter sections of back country roads, through Elizabeth Town, Deloraine, Exton and of course into Cressy. Travelling the more obscure roads away from the highway is much more to our liking where the trademark local friendliness is never far from a farmers wave as we cross paths. The offer of water for a man's horse is never turned down but it is very true that you can lead a horse to water but can't make them drink.
Cressy is an interesting town full of friendly folk, which came to be in the 1850's to service the surrounding wheat farms but is also known as Tasmania's Trout Capital due to the good fishing in the area. The people here are very accommodating too.
Although ready to close, the local Pub (Ringwood Hotel) kindly provides us a space for Miacoda, a counter meal for me and a bed for my weary head.
Although only a short stay, it is enough kip for a 4 o'clock start, although I suspect Coda does not agree. The sound of her boots on the road at this early hour is very loud but a welcome sound to my ears as we now continue out of town
Holy Moley, just had a call from Leon Compton from ABC Radio Hobart! It seems that we may have attracted some attention. Seems that a man never really knows what to say when there are others listening but with Coda holding my reigns I feel a little more comfortable.
As I have never been on the radio before and being a private man, I feel a little out of my comfort zone. Phone reception is a little random out here and we drop out during the interview. Better luck tomorrow hopefully.
The Campbell Town Hotel Motel allows us to stop for a spell and while Coda grazes their back lawn, I fetch our supplies which I arranged earlier in the week just in case we would have to head south.
It had been raining heavily prior to hitting town so some of our gear is a little damp, whilst eating a hot meal from the hotel I take some time to dry the gear by the fire.
With food now in my belly, we saddle up and head off into the dying light of the evening toward Ross. We decide to stop for few hours to catch some shut eye on the outskirts of Ross but a light drizzle keeps us company during that time. This rest gives me some time to also contemplate the interesting people involved with the Tasmanian Trail. These people, as we have, give their time voluntarily to support the iconic Tasmanian Trail. This trip is the least we can do to show our commitment and support.
We are travelling through to St Peters Pass, onto Oatlands with a number of short stops planned along the way and so far we have made good time. There are road works occurring along this section, the ride through here has been pleasant in part due to the courteous manner of drivers. The friendly local road crew welcome Coda and exchange some photos for a cool drink of water.
It is getting late and we are losing light fast, think I may have under estimated the time it would take to get to this point. We are lucky enough to run into a lady with a large 4 wheel drive who provides us with rear support of flashing lights which assists us with the fading light along the highway into Kempton. A brief stop to allow Coda to graze at the Kempton Mood Food Road House and a quick feed with a coffee for myself is a welcome relief.
Heated seats in the 4 wheel drive are even better, who would have thought these were a thing!
Coda and I move on to Kempton Park and bed down for the night on a small patch of grass near the local recreation grounds. We need some rest before our early trip to Clarence, Hobart tomorrow.
The trip through to Brighton is somewhat peaceful as we move down the highway at 0400hrs with a light air of fog about us. Traffic is light this time of morning and we make good time to the Pontville roundabout. We continue our way along the Brighton Road and into the township of Pontville which in the 1830's was a stopping point when travelling from Launceston to Hobart, as well as a major supplier of stone during that time, now a sleepy village with a number of historical buildings which are worth a look.
As we travel into Brighton, we decide to stop at the local Bakery for a coffee. There is plenty of grass for Coda here so I just trail her rope on the ground and allow her to graze freely whilst I fetch a hot coffee.
On our way out of Brighton we receive a call from the Minister Guy Barnett who is checking on our progress indicating he had seen us riding on the side of the road and had been listening to our progress. This is the first time I have spoken to Mr Barnett so the call was a little unexpected. I guess I was not sure what to expect from the start of this journey but obvious we are getting the attention that is needed. Mr Barnett has just invited us to a meeting tomorrow morning, this is a a step in the right direction.
We continue to move onto the township of Bridgewater a town approximately 17 km's from Hobart and which was originally named Green Point. The remarkable achievement of building the causeway across the shallow point of the River Derwent led to the obvious name change.
The Bridgewater Bridge is a test for Miacoda as the expansion plates in the bridge make quite a loud bang when vehicles cross over them. With a nudge and a quiet word, Coda moves cautiously along the pedestrian walk way where there is only just enough room for her wonderful wide body to fit.
We need to now move off the main road which the verge to the side of the old rail line provides us. Have just got off the phone to John, the Tasmanian Trail President who will meet us along this old line and provide us lodging for the night.
An hour has passed and we have met up with John who has his dog as support. As we walk the final few km's to his home by the river we talk of the good weather we hope for tomorrow.
Johns backyard is quite large, I unsaddle Coda and rub her down, she now wanders off for a roll on the grass. Happy us a pig in.....well you know what I mean.
John's wife has cooked a magnificent home cooked meal and I must say it is going down extremely well.
We are up early and now saddled ready to go, the bike track and old rail corridor nearby provides us a safer way to travel. The sign at the beginning of the trail indicates no dogs, motorbikes or cats, a little unusual I think but what do I know.
The sun has peaked and its display of orange colors are spectacular and with the absence of wind we could have not asked for a better day.
A pair of bike riders are passing us and one says 'Hi Dakota'. I wave and reply but feel a little stunned hearing a stranger speak my name, a little unsettling really.
Coda is a big girl with a big appetite, usually meaning a big mess. To emphasis this I dismount and clean up after her which becomes a mammoth task.
As we cross the lights on the corner of Davey Street & Evans Street in Hobart, a lovely lady with impeccable timing emerges from a cafe with a long black which she passes to me. We continue across the lights at Salamanca and on into the lawns of Parliament. A small crowd greets us much to Coda's delight and a photographer offers to take her photo.
Minister Barnett has wandered out from the parliament and introduces himself, being a man from a farming background he appears to be comfortable with Coda. Given he has brought a carrot treat, Coda refuses to stand still for a photo insisting the carrot must come first.
We head into Parliament where security protocols are in place, once through this process we head into a meeting room where we discuss the problem and potential solutions. It is agreed that we will meet on the disputed site at a later date and work toward a mutually agreeable outcome.
We say our goodbyes on the steps of parliament and the phone rings with the ABC Radio asking if we would like to pop in. Well we have never been in a radio studio before so why not.
Crossing the intersection of Brooker Highway & Davey Street, we move along the footpath and onto the lawns of the ABC Studio.
Coda is gaining lots of attention and affection so I head into the studio where after a few minutes head in for a chat with Leon Compton. Talk about nervous!
The chat only goes for a few minutes but by the end I feel a lot more relaxed, thanks for the experience Leon.
After convincing Coda and the staff at the studio that we need to head off, we move across the highway and onto the Bridge of Remembrance toward the Cenotaph where Coda's float is awaiting her.
This has been quite an experience for us both and something we will remember for a long time. If one thing this has taught us is that If something is important to you, then persevere, stay committed and don't stop until it is done.
Had these conversations taken place right at the start then we would not have needed to go to the lengths we have to get people engaged. Looking back on this saga demonstrates how important communication is and with respectful dialogue what can be achieved.
But to be quite honest with you, it was a good excuse to just go for a ride.......