Locums for a Small World Blog

In Tasmania you won't run away from your problems, you'll bike.

Posted by Saralynn White

Jacob's Ladder

Wildflowers in Ben Lomond

Tasmania. Mountain bikers have kept quiet about the outstanding trails here, but on an island crawling with outdoor adventurers a secret like this is tough to keep quiet.

The characteristic dolerite columns so prized by rock-climbers and rapellers (abseilers) are especially dramatic here. Wildflowers abound in summer, and despite the stony plateaus there are also dense forests and moorlands that make most of us think of, say, Scotland. Mention Tasmania and most people think of skiing. Yet Ben Lomond National Park, which encompasses the Mountain Range of the same name, offers a challenge for anyone who loves pedal power. It’s called Jacob’s Ladder.

Aptly named after the ladder to heaven described in the Book of Genesis, this steep and narrow zigzag road ascends to heaven, or at least 5148 feet/1570 meters in the air. The hairpin bends of the road and the sweeping views also make it a biker's heaven on earth. Jacob’s Ladder also happens to be the final section of the ascent to Ben Lomond—the only route to the ski fields.

A Eucalyptus forest in Ben LomondCrystal Mountain in Ben Lomond

Riders start near the summit then cruise down sweeping fire-trail switchbacks before hitting the main trail down.
One devotee, Andrew Harris, describes the ride this way: “Fist-sized rocks, lung busting ascents and hope-and-pray descents combine with vast vistas and temperamental weather for an unprecedented outdoor experience.” Once you’ve descended Jacob’s Ladder, there are some tough secondary access trails and sculpted single-tracks that are worth the trip, too.

This spectacular ride is less than an hour from Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest town with—not coincidentally—one of the highest per-capita densities of bike shops in Australia. Buy or “hire” a bike at Mountain Bike Tasmania (MBT) where a guide can tailor any ride to your skill level. Dirt fiends here also recommend Kate Reed Nature Recreation Reserve. Wedged between the Midland and Bass highways, there’s no set route to follow, but it’s difficult to get lost; just go where you please along the trails and fire roads.


tasmanian devil australia 123rfLaunceston

When you’re biking (or driving or skiing) here, gear should be windproof and rainproof—the weather can change rapidly in any season. In fact, pedaling in the snow is a common sight and chains are required on vehicles. One resolute rider says, “I enjoy the cool weather: it’s easier to see the incredible views if you’re not drowning in sweat!”

Rapha Performance Roadwear recently released a short film of a bike journey across Tasmania called Van Diemen's Land (the name Europeans originally used for Tasmania). Filmed with a cast of local riders over three days, it showcases the breathtaking countryside and amazing cycling roads the Apple Isle (yet another nickname for Tasmania) has to offer. For the full effect, take a journey down Jacob’s Ladder now with a rider who filmed the trip wearing IMGing HD 720 Video Camera Sunglasses. Hint: don’t eat lunch first.

Photo credit (top right): Retired Aussies 

Topics: Ben Lomond National Park, Mountain Bike Tasmania, Tasmania, Launceston, Van Dieman's Land, Jacob's Ladder

All work and no play makes Bentch a dull doctor

Posted by Jesse Black

Dr. Leonard BentchNowhere in Dr. Leonard Bentch's CV does it mention his knack for writing, but his talents extend well beyond Internal Medicine. A retired physician, Dr. Bentch was sailing the Caribbean when he received a call that took him on a six-month locum adventure with his wife, Sue. He recently put his many remembrances to paper, and we're proud to present the last of the three-part series here (if you missed the first installments, read them here and there.)


new zealand glacial ice 123rf

australia rain forrest 123rf





New Zealand was definitely not all work. Day and weekend hikes in Cormandel were precursors for even more spectacular and rigorous multi-day experiences: Tongariro Crossing, Milford Track, the Siberia Experience, Franz Joseph (for glacier hiking), and more. 

We flew to Sydney with a transfer to Hobart, arriving just in time to revel in the celebrations marking the completion of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, which is probably the most vigorous and dangerous ocean race in the entire world. Hundreds of sailboats complete in a 680 nautical mile journey with colorful spinnakers prodding their hulls forward for just a few more miles to cross the finish line. The not so fortunate ones crept into

australia ocean yacht 123rf

Constitution Harbor with busted masts, defrocked rigging, and tired crews. Celebration with beer by the barrel, fish and chips by the bushel, and hugs and kisses from anxious family and friends by the score spilled onto the venerable quays and marina of this picturesque and noble seaport.

Out from Hobart, the countryside reminded us of Texas: dry, relatively flat, small towns with limestone buildings built during the mid 19th century, friendly and tough people throughout. The restored convict prison at Port Arthur was an incredible site. The endless views along the South Pacific, the long stretches of barrier islands offering sanctuary to countless sea birds, and the knowledge of the magical legacy of Captain Cook inspires reflection of times long past. The Captain Cook museum, a small locally maintained facility, is well worth the stop. 

We thoroughly enjoyed driving from Hobart to Launceston. The graceful river arch at Campbell Town and the restored windmill at Ross are particularly striking remembrances of beautifully simple classic architecture. In Launceston, we enjoyed a river boat cruise up into Tamar River Gorge. So enticing was this spectacular geography, that we returned for a day hike, ending with a luxurious swim in the huge public pool and adjacent Tamar River cascades. The swing bridge hovering hundreds of feet above the cascading river offered a fabulous walk and photo opportunity.

Launceston to Sydney is only 45 minutes by air, but nearly a world apart. Launceston is a quaint provincial town, while Sydney is one of the most cosmopolitan urban environments in the world. The famous Opera House and background bridge are icons for all and both lived up to their reputations. Travel within Sydney by foot, subway, or ferry is easy, fun and rewarding. The harbor scene is spectacular and a cruise is well worth the time. We enjoyed international food, regional Australian wines, and "hip" music.

Our six months Down Under seemed to fly by. Between work and travel, it felt like we were only in country for only a few weeks - though we made the most of our journey in the short time we had in New Zealand. To truly appreciate this area, aptly named the "Land of the Long White Cloud", you really have to experience it for yourself.

Topics: Port Arthur Tasmania, Tamar River Gorge, Siberia Experience NZ, Dr. Leonard Bentch, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Launceston

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Twice a month, our inquisitive locum tenens community asks us to tackle topics ranging from cuisine and culture to recreation and entertainment. We also include great storytelling from our doctors. Have a topic you’d like to read about? Let us know.

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