I’m staring down a pitch-black hole carved out of a rocky hillside, trying to make out the faintest glimmer of light, but all I see is a dark abyss. “Trust your bike, ride straight and the lights should turn on when you go in,” our guide tells us.
White-knuckled, I nervously clutch at the handlebars, place my feet on the pedals and push off. For a moment, I think something has gone wrong and I’m about to cut short my mountain biking adventure by pummelling head first into the rocky wall. But just at the right time, a sensor light flashes on, illuminating the 600-metre tunnel in neon blue hues.
It’s an incredibly freeing feeling, flying through this cool, cavernous passage – a remnant of the town’s tin mining history – while my fellow bikers’ elated voices echo through the tunnel. Is this the moment of ‘flow’ I’ve been told about by my hosts here at the Blue Derby Pods Ride? It feels pretty damn good.
We arrive at this mountain biking haven in north-east Tasmania on a crisp morning in late autumn. A short off-road journey takes us into our luxurious forest accommodation, primely located in the heart of Derby’s network of world-class mountain biking trails.
Hidden among towering Tasmanian Blackwood trees, mossy rocks and forest ferns, Blue Derby Pods Ride is designed as a private and luxurious stay where you can be fully immersed in nature.
Four private, architecturally designed ‘pods’ make up the guest quarters. They are minimalist and thoughtfully designed with big glass windows that pull you right into your natural surroundings.
It’s the kind of place that makes you feel at ease the instant you arrive. The rushing of a nearby waterfall a soothing lullaby as you drift off to sleep; the native birdsong a gentle alarm to rouse you in the morning.
Creating a flow state
As the story goes, Blue Derby Pods Ride was dreamt up by Steve and Tara Howell one warm December evening as a way of helping others break up the monotony of working life and reconnect with wonder. The idea was formed: create an experience centred around ‘flow’.
A concept popularised by psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, ‘flow state’ describes a feeling of zen that arrives when you are completely immersed in something. At Blue Derby Pods Ride, it means creating experiences of fun, that are close to nature and stimulate focus.
“Our purpose is to give our guests a moment of great realisation during our experience, those moments when you just think, ‘This is what life is about’,” says Tara.
Luxury and adventure
As we are welcomed with a freshly brewed cup of Tasmanian-roasted coffee, our hosts tell us about the journey of making this special place and the care that has gone into every aspect.
Completely off-grid, 14 solar panels power most of the facilities, which include the pods, a central kitchen, dining and lounge hub, and bathrooms with rainwater-fed showers. A fire boiler heats the pods, which can be dialled up or down for your comfort.
When not adventuring on two wheels, guests can enjoy yoga on the outdoor deck, or unwind with a book in the reading nook, hidden behind a secret door.
After we settle in, it’s time to hit the trails. Admittedly nervous due to my relative lack of mountain biking experience, I’m quickly reassured by the team that as long as I can confidently ride a bike and am up for a bit of adventure, then I’ll be just fine.
After running through the basics to make sure we feel confident on the bikes, we head off to explore the winding network of trails. We zoom down woodland paths under dappled sunlight, pull up to a ridge overlooking the lush rainforest and end our two-wheeled adventure at Lake Derby, where another rejuvenating experience awaits.
Taking the Nordic plunge
The Floating Sauna Lake Derby is a Scandinavian-inspired sauna that sits, or rather, floats, right on the edge of the lake. With a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, you can soothe your weary muscles while gazing out at the tranquil waters in the steam.
The idea came from Nigel Reeves after seeing his fellow middle-aged mountain bikers struggling to walk after a day on the trails. “I could see a market for recovery options like a sauna or hot tubs. I’d heard about saunas in Oslo and it seemed logical to try to build one at the lake,” he says.
Since opening in 2020, the Floating Sauna has become a popular destination for mountain bikers and travellers. Those up for a little icy exhilaration can embrace the Nordic hot sauna and cold plunge tradition by jumping into the lake, an experience I am told is meant to improve circulation and relieve muscles and joints. It makes you feel alive, that’s for sure.
Gourmet fare in the wild
Returning to the Blue Derby Pods Ride hub, we end our day unwinding by the fire, enjoying a gourmet dinner, paired with nourishing conversation.
With an abundance of produce at their doorstep, the Howells have made a point to incorporate Tasmanian cuisine into the experience. Ravenous from our day on the trails, we devour sumptuous slow-cooked lamb from nearby Landfall Farm and mop up the plate with freshly baked bread with lashings of Tasmanian Butter Co butter and sprinklings of Tasman Sea Salt.
“We have such a wonderful array of gourmet food in Tasmania, so it is a no-brainer that in every aspect of our experience, we work to support local producers,” says Tara.
Full-bellied and warm from the roaring fire and red wine, we listen to our hosts as they wax lyrical about their corner of the world, and the gratitude they feel to be able to share it with others.
“We genuinely feel very privileged to be able to make these special memories for our guests, they can be life defining moments, and that is a joy to be a part of,” Tara smiles.
As the evening winds up, languid and heavy-eyed, I say goodnight, wander under the starry sky and retreat to my cosy haven. I think back to Tara’s words: “This is what life is all about.”
Blue Derby Pods Ride runs three-day, four-day and themed experiences throughout the year. The three-day experience rides through the stunning Blue Derby mountain bike trails, while the four-day experience includes an epic coastal journey to the Bay of Fires beaches. bluederbypodsride.com.au