The Dragon Trail MTB is named as it loosely follows the driving route known as the Trail of the Tin Dragon.
The Tin Dragon Trail is the story of the Chinese who were lured to the area to mine tin in the 1870s. They were called the Celestial Sojourners because most came for a limited time and never intended to make Australia their home; they were here to make their fortune and then return to China. By 1890 over 1,000 Chinese lived in the state forming the largest migrant group from a non-English speaking background.
The MTB route passes several key areas on the Trail of the Tin Dragon. Starting in the town of Branxholm there is a red bridge across the Ringarooma River painted with Chinese symbols and characters. It marks the scene of a riot that occurred in 1871 between European and Chinese miners. At the time tensions were high as Chinese outnumbered Europeans 10 to 1 and the Europeans were concerned about loosing local jobs.
Part way through Day 1 of racing, the event passes through Moorina and a cemetery where there is a memorial to the Chinese miners who are buried there. There is a stove in which to burn offerings to their spirits.
Day 1 finishes at Weldborough. During the 19th century, Weldborough had the largest Chinese community on any tin field in Australia. It was a cultural centre for the Chinese miners and they set up a system of village life similar to that in their home land, centered around the community Joss house, the Guan Di Temple. The temple is now on display in Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum.
Weldborough at it’s peak had 700 Chinese miners who slept 3 shifts to a bed in the pub. Of note, Weldborough also had Tasmania’s first casino where Mahjong and Fan-Tan were played.
It is worth taking some time in the evening to browse the snippets of history that adorn the walls in the Weldborough Hotel. There is also an interpretive walk across the road winding above an old tin mining site, not far from the finish line.
On Day 2 riders climb up and over the mountain called Blue Tier. Between 1875 and 1996 Blue Tier produced more than 11,000 tonnes of tin. It is hard to imagine, but at one point it was the worlds largest open-cut tin mine with hundreds of miners wandering the forests eager to make their fortunes. Where the aid station is on the very top, there was a town called Poimena which had two hotels, a blacksmith, butcher, three stores, and a few residential cottages. It is long gone now and nature has claimed the tier back as her own.
Day 2 finishes at St Helens which is officially the end of the Trail of the Tin Dragon. St Helens was an important port for the miners and also another area that Chinese looked for alluvial tin. The route on Day 3 climbs Flagstaff Hill and follows Cascade creek which has mining relics throughout.
St Helens houses a great history room located at the visitors information centre. This has a detailed display devoted to the Trail of the Tin Dragon. Fittingly, the Dragon Trail MTB Perpetual Trophy will be hosted there between events.
Chinese Dragons have been adopted as a symbol of the race. These legendary creatures of mythology are generally seen as kind and benevolent, representing power and wisdom in oriental cultures. Chinese Dragons are believed to control water elements such as rain, rivers, and oceans, as well as bestowing safety and luck on all.
The number nine is frequently connected with Chinese dragons and is seen as auspicious. There are nine forms of the dragon and nine of the most significant climbs throughout the event are named after these forms. We hope you will channel their strength and power to make it to the top!
Dragon Trail is managed by Geocentric Pty Ltd. This project received grant funding from the Australian Government under the Recovery for Regional Tourism program, an initiative of the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fundinfo@dragontrail.com.au | +61 419427243