During my stay at Cradle Mountain Hotel, I was very lucky to be introduced to Cradle Country Adventures. Owner of the company, Ray, who was quite possibly the most Australian man I have ever laid eyes on, picked us up one rainy morning along with another couple and drove us to his stables a short distance away.
This, however, was a ride with a difference and there were no horses in sight; this was where the quad bikes were stored. As Ray wheeled the 4 big, bright hunks of metal into view, we slipped into something a little more comfortable – and by comfortable I mean layers upon layers of old, warm jackets, gloves, wellies and anything else to help shield us from the hail that had started to hammer the roof of the old barn.
After a safety briefing and demo, which basically all boiled down to a list of scenarios in which we would have to buy Ray beer, we mounted our quads (Ray sat on the back of mine so I could take full advantage of his camera skills) and slowly made our way out into the apocalyptic weather.
My bike felt powerful and intimidating at first, but after a little practice I found it super easy to drive and as my confidence increased, so did my speed. We rode in convoy across acres of land, following a rocky, winding track, which took us through a number of fast running creeks. The creeks were deeper than expected and as I noticed Ray’s feet rise up either side of me, the freezing water flooded my boots, numbing my toes for the rest of the day.
The hail soon started to pelt me directly in the eyes too, completely blinding me at one point, so I decided it would be a good idea to switch with Ray and use him as a human shield for a while. I found this much more comfortable and ended up spending the rest of the ride slightly reclined, taking in the views and chatting nonsense, whilst Ray had somehow wound up becoming my own personal taxi driver.
It was all going swimmingly, until Ray took on an enormous puddle with a little too much enthusiasm and ended up getting us both bogged. As the others looked on helplessly and I perched on my seat like a seal stranded on a rock in the ocean, poor old Ray had to wade through the freezing cold water and use one of the other quads to tow me out. It took a good 15 minutes of experimenting, tugging from behind and then from the front, but eventually I began to roll forwards and onto dryer land.
Me: Does this mean you owe us the beer, Ray?
Ray: That wasn’t part of the contract.
The ride lasted about 2 hours in total and although the weather was atrocious for a good part of the experience, I still had an absolute blast. We rode across some classic Tasmanian countryside and took in some beautiful scenery, including Cradle Mountain itself. The terrain was varied and challenging in parts, so some experience and confidence is definitely required.
Ray kindly picked us up from our accommodation and dropped us off. He’s a great guy – professional and safety conscious, but also incredibly relaxed, knowledgeable and interesting. We got on so well in fact, we agreed to spend our last night in Tasmania on his beautiful farm in Kimberley.
The farm, which is set amongst green, rolling fields and home to over 40 horses, is the perfect jump-off point for a variety of rides. There is also the option to stay in the old shearers quarters accommodation which, to our delight, would be our home for the night. As we drove up the long, dusty driveway, we were surrounded by horses grazing amongst the trees and greeted by Jack, the friendly Jack Russell.
The accommodation sits in the middle of a field and as you open your bedroom door, chances are that a horse will be stood directly outside, staring back at you. I absolutely loved this – and seeing them graze next to my car as I sat on the open veranda made the whole experience feel so wonderfully rustic.
Ray and David took us on a super fun ride through the farm and old tree plantations. I rode Lucy, a big, fiery grey mare, instantly falling in love and trying to come up with ways to sneak her on the ferry with me the following day. Yasmin, who had never ridden before, rode Baguette, whose laid-back plod made him perfect for a beginner. We had a ball; I was able to go full speed ahead with David at times, whilst Ray took care of Yasmin, making sure she was still in the saddle every so often.
That evening, two other guests joined us and Ray lit the fire and cooked up a proper Aussie feast on the BBQ. I was sad to be leaving the next day… until he offered for me to join him and the new ladies for a morning ride. For the rest of the night, I wore a big grin, had a satisfied stomach and fell asleep to the sounds of the horses munching on the grass just outside the window.
The next morning I was back in the saddle and the four of us headed out along the river, up into the forest and out onto a hill with a million dollar view. Yasmin stayed behind, as this was a faster paced ride (she was also struggling to walk). The ride was indeed a little more challenging, with steep, slippery hills and huge fallen trees to negotiate, as well as my own sore arse from yesterday to endure. Three hours was a perfect amount of time, any longer and I would have needed a wheelchair.
For lunch we had some of Ray’s delicious homemade soup. We then all went our separate ways; we waved off David and the ladies as they began their afternoon ride, hugged Ray goodbye and thanked him for everything (I may have also begged him for a job), packed up our stuff and hit the road.
If you are interested in doing some quad-biking or horse riding (or both!) in Tassie, check out the Cradle Country Adventures website for more info. They cater to all levels of experience, groups are small and personal and the horses are a joy to ride. Ray and David were fab, the accommodation couldn’t be in a nicer setting and Ray’s cooking was top notch.
It was the perfect end to our Tasmanian adventure.