Australia Blog 7
I was glad to get back on the road but I’d enjoyed Sydney. Of course I’d hardly got under its skin but what I saw was attractive. Setting off from a hotel means that you can be packed from the night before and so I was on the road not long after 7am.
The exit from the city going north involved crossing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was very convenient but in reality the path was closed in to to stop people throwing themselves off it and so netting and barbed wire accompanied me across.
I passed a few cyclists going in the opposite direction. None acknowledged me but ploughed on with steely stares on the road ahead. In fact this was the situation with most Australian fellow cyclists throughout my ride. Anna had asked if I’d come across any other cycle tourers. No, not a soul. I expected as I got up the coast I might come across some bedraggled fellow spirit. I must add that the campsites can be expensive in Australia (about £21/night for a good one) and I wondered whether they might avoid the large sites with lots of amenities and attendant cost. I liked all the facilities and so broke the bank!
North Sydney put down a marker for a day of climbing as I ground through the gears up and down the streets. Saturday morning saw lots of joggers, cyclists and cafe society at its most bustling. Folk who had worked all week were now chilling. Even more surprising at just past 8am were organised school boy cricket matches.
It was hard not to get drawn to following the busy main roads but I did venture off piste but usually at a cost of severe climbing. The residential housing was splendid and often perched on the side of a cliff looking down on some yachts. This was quite a posh area of the country.
Almost comically named I had to push my bike up a 20% gradient hill in Bilgola Plateau before dropping down to Avalon. This was on a peninsula on the coast. This was very well healed. The national car of Australia, a Toyota, gave way to European brands, artisan food shops abounded, people ambled up the street bare foot whilst looking at goods in up market craft shops or looking at trendy beachware clothes shops. To kick off my shoes and enjoy the ambience was tempting but I had a ferry to catch at Palm Beach.
For reasons that are not explicable then a bike tour involving a ferry is terrific and I caught this passenger ferry to Ettalong. From here I kept heading north all the time flirting with main roads carrying Saturday traffic or on cycle paths.
My route planning started in York: outlining a daily schedule. From here when in the country I firm this plan up. Firstly I have a paper map that I can see where everywhere is relative to each other. The map isn’t detailed enough for bicycle route planning. So next I look at Google Maps on my devices to identify the detailed roads to take. I then will program my Garmin Sat Nav to add more details that I can see as I pedal along. The Garmin has a mind of its own with criteria, restrictions etc that can sometimes add a lot of miles to the Google route. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to filter these constraints out but I’m usually very cautious when leaving the route planning to the Garmin. In other words it’s a combination of all three to be safe.
After crawling along due to the hills and route I picked up speed later in the day and choose a site in Budgewoi to stay at. I was initially aiming for two less ‘holiday camp’ style sites about 5 miles up the road but they were fully booked. I don’t usually ring ahead but these Australian National Park sites required advance booking. The first call resulted in me getting hung up on! However, I tried again to find that being Saturday night the locals were out in force and the sites were full.
My camp site was a large park and the kind Receptionist responded (to the instruction I’d received from my Australian tour Wild Life Consultant, Karl Dodd) when I blurted out “How much?” at her first offer. It fell by $4 as I was then counted as a local!
So after finding my pitch and erecting the tent it led to the usual cycle of ablutions, laundry, re-organisation of panniers and kit planning for the next day. I find it hard to have an appetite for food until the temperature falls sufficiently. It did and I fancied some fish and chips. This delicacy is a big take away offer all over Australia. They eat more than us! So I trundled half a mile up the road to a shopping arcade talking to Anna all the way: our daily check in call. Got there had said food and trundled back to the tent ready for beddie byes. It must have been all of 9pm and time to sleep. It was dark.
So I went into the unconscious ritual of putting what I call ‘The Father, Son & Holy Ghost’ in one of the tent pockets. This is how I describe the three items I never let out of my sight – passport, mobile phone and wallet. Found the phone and wallet but not the passport.
Rummaged through all my panniers. This meant dragging them to the laundry block, which had lighting. No success. Went through every pocket. No success. Started to panic.
The last use of the passport was to allow the nice lady on Reception to see the spelling of my name when I checked in. The Reception was now shut and I couldn’t ask her if she still had it. The other place was the restaurant. However, I couldn’t remember taking it but if I did what I always did I may have taken it with me to dinner. I grabbed a torch and went back the half a mile scanning the road as I went. Got to the restaurant and it had closed.
To say I slept minimally would be true. What with my depression and and anxiety over the lost passport and having no idea where I’d lost it (and the birds) I tossed and turned. Even checking the Leeds United score didn’t bring joy or sleep despite their winning.
So I had two hopes. One was that I’d left it at Reception. I wasn’t hopeful because the way our conversation went it seemed final and I’m sure she would have come to my pitch after discovering I’d left it. The restaurant seemed a long shot. I remember checking my seat and table and saw nothing before I departed.
Of course lost passports can be overcome abroad. But here I was on a bike 60 odd miles from Sydney and an Embassy or Consulate. Tomorrow was Sunday in Australia and trying to resolve it was a severe headache.