As a travel journalist, sometimes you get into the habit of saying yes to things before you know what you’re getting yourself in for. In 2011, this was taken to the literal extreme when I took part in a Destination NSW campaign where I would be led on a surprise itinerary designed by Danny Clayton that led to me jumping out of a plane over the Hunter Valley. In 2015, a caving experience snuck into an itinerary that led to one of the more interesting birthdays I’ve had.
So when I was offered a mountain biking trip, that seemed innocuous enough. I’d been mountain biking before, I was fairly confident I’d be capable enough for the experience. Little did I know I was jumping into what is one of the most incredible mountain biking destinations in Australia – one that would humble and challenge me over a remarkable three day experience with “Blue Derby Pods Ride”; designed for those who want to truly envelop themselves in all that the Tasmanian city of Derby has come to offer mountain bikers.
And it offers a lot.
To experience it, I was taken along for the (literal) ride with the Blue Derby Pods Ride, a company that launched about two years ago, offering pod-based accommodation hidden amongst the Blue Derby trails, with three day, two night trips with experienced guides – who also serve as your chefs and stay with you on site at the accommodation.
The trip started back in Launceston, where I was picked up from my hotel at 845am; another passenger, with his bike shorts ready to go and bike strapped up, was also on board. They would be supplying a bike for me when I arrived (they can provide you just about anything you can’t provide yourself!). It would be just the two of us for the the next couple of days, though they cater for a maximum of 8 guests. It took a little less than two hours to get out to Derby, with a brief snack along the way, traversing the windy roads that took us east of Launceston.
Before we headed out to get settled at the accommodation, we were thrown into the deep end of a lengthy intermediate trail – and for me at least, there were pretty poor results. It didn’t take more than a couple of corners before I ended up on the floor and with my confidence bruised (not to mention a few literal scrapes and bruises too). The sun beaming down at 30 degrees, three days at Mona Foma and a bike I wasn’t familiar with didn’t help things. Ultimately I had to admit defeat and concede that I wasn’t ready for such a trail yet, and I ended up sitting that one out.
Honestly, even the “easy” trails are thin with difficult turns – the beginner’s trail above though which sits in the town centre proving a great track for me to regain my confidence. Though the trip will cater for novices, and the amazing guides were more than patient with me as I slammed myself into the dirt, to really take full advantage of the experience, make sure you know where your skills stand. Had I started with this trail, I probably would have worked up more confidence early on. Oh and the ability to ride at least 30km a day is important as well. As with some of my other journalistic experience aforementioned – I probably could have arrived more prepared.
The town of Derby is a lovely one, and in addition to the trails, there are places to eat, drink and shop. But this whole town has been reborn around biking tourism – every aspect of the community now lives and breathes this culture.
Derby's easiest and most picturesque trail 📸Frequent lookouts provide great vantage points for platypus spotting or the classic MTB selfie and better yet, the beautiful Briseis Beach is the ideal location for a post-ride swim.#bluederby
Posted by Blue Derby Mountain Bike Trails on Wednesday, April 17, 2019
My favourite track though – and certainly one of the easiest – is the track that runs around Lake Derby, giving riders the option of a quick dip at Briseis Beach – which on a hot day like the one we rode during was very welcome indeed. And it didn’t take long to dry off as you continues to bike around the trail. From there, the path that takes you to the pods still had its challenges but anyone comfortable mountain biking would find it a competitive breeze.
The rides are broken up by incredible meals prepare for the maximum 8 guests who stay across the four pods, with a focus on local ingredients – and a surprising dedication to presentation, too.
There’s an emphasis on healthy, local cuisine, with meals that cater to vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike. Honestly, the dining experience in the communal area (pictured below) was so wonderful, they should offer a dinner here one night a week. The location and experience is just too good to relegate purely to those taking the three day experience.
It’s a short walk to your pod from the communal area, and the pods themselves are comfortable, with a large bed sitting against the window and plenty of room for your bags. They would be comfortable whether you’re by yourself or a couple.
The pods are definitely designed to detach you from your normal day to day life, so there are no electrical plugs in the rooms (though the dim lights work well if you want to read before bed). You won’t have much reception up here anyway unless you’re with Telstra, but if you do you need to charge anything you can do it in the communal area. They supply you with some books, and a large window that has you looking out onto the beautiful North-East Tasmanian rainforest that surrounds you. And no, there’s no blinds, but believe me when I say this is welcome.
The communal area is a comfortable one where you can relax in between rides, too. There’s even a hidden away library, with an acoustic guitar hanging on the wall for anyone who might want to give it a strum.
Big bean bags are available for you to sit on the outdoor patio, surrounded by the beautiful trees and wildlife that surrounds the secluded retreat. The photo below is the view from said patio, as the sun started to set. A short walk one direction will take you to the rivers, and another will take you to the biking trails.
The initial trails opened up back in 2014, and most of it still feels brand new. I’m told there are regularly new additions to the area, and from riders and the operators who help take riders from one trail to the next, there’s a certain sense of pride everyone has about this incredible achievement in such a remote and beautiful part of our country. On the final day of the trip, after we packed up our pods, we went out to take the 20km Blue Tier Trail, and took a walk up to the nearby lookout before we did; it really felt like you could see all of Tasmania from up there.
Following the ride, we closed up the experience with a picnic before we headed for the airport.
“Everyone can ride Blue Derby” was written on a sign at one of the establishments in town, which sits about an hour and a half out of Launceston on the northside of Tasmania. And if I proved anything, it’s that. I learned a lot about myself across these three days. Notably, I am far too unfit at this point in my life – but perhaps more importantly, just because you’ve ridden a mountain bike, doesn’t mean you can mountain bike.
But though humbled, and slightly worse for wear, I am incredibly glad I did the trip. It was a remarkable experience in one of Australia’s most beautiful regions. And it’s amazing how much these trails, and the sport is attracts, has reinvented this region. They’ve done an stunning job, and this experience is undoubtedly one of the best ways to truly envelope yourself in the whole experience, while making sure everything is taken care of along the way.
Three day mountain biking experiences with Blue Derby Pods Ride start at $1,750 per person with return transport from Launceston, all meals, drinks and lodging included. Most airlines fly into Launceston from mainland Australia – we flew with Qantas from Sydney via Melbourne. To find out more about the experience, head to bluederbypodsride.com.au. If you want more details about the Blue Derby trails themselves, head HERE.
All photos by the author.