Australia Blog 8
So after the fitful night of worrying about my misplaced passport I awoke to rain. (No change there then). I kicked my heals until Reception opened (7.30am). I strode to the office like a schoolboy approaching a notice board with newly posted exam results. I was anxious and the wrong news would be calamitous.
The new Receptionist caught my anxiety and looked all around the office including within the safe. She found nothing. She then said she’d ring Charlene (honestly this was her name!) It was early but she rationalised that’s as she had a baby then she’d be up. Ring, ring. No, she remembered handing it back to me and in any case had I left it in Reception she’d have come to my pitch with it.
I was crushed. They saw it. One member of staff said she’d check the bins in case the plastic bag containing the passport had been thrown away. Another chap promised to look at the flower beds and around on the grass. The way he shook my hand and the look in his eyes showed a lot of sincerity and empathy at the world of pain and cost I was about to embark on.
I slumped off and rang Anna. I’d not wanted to have her worry but I needed her help to establish what I needed to do to get a travel document. She got down to it.
I cycled back up to the fish and chip restaurant. Surprisingly there was someone in cleaning and preparing for the day. It wasn’t a member of staff from the night before. The place wasn’t open but she let me look around including peering into a bin full of left over chips, cartons etc. There was no record about something being found. I asked if she might ring someone and she refused. It was just that she was a junior helper and didn’t feel she could. She said she’d leave them a message. The shop was to open in a couple of hours and hopefully they’d be in then. I wasn’t encouraged.
Back at the site I packed the tent. Anna had established the low down on UK nationals abroad and what to do. It seemed my first job was to call the police. Still on my mind was that time was slipping away and I had miles to cover: time is always tight on these bike rides. It is the most precious commodity I have.
I had no hopes about the restaurant but thought I’d return to leave my mobile number before ringing the police and pushing on. I got there to find more staff. I strolled up to the counter and my unhelpful assistant handed me the passport. Her boss said casually they’d found it and put it in the safe overnight. They looked bemused at a hysterically happy cyclist thanking them profusely and offering to pay for all their children to get through college and fund free trips to Disneyland in perpetuity.
I rang Anna and even though I’d left the campsite I cycled back to tell them to stop searching. They were pleased for me. After all this then I had to push on.
After Australia helping me then I returned the favour. At a ‘greasy spoon’ shack I ordered a bit of breakfast. Another chap was bitching about the cost of a hamburger to the owner: he was a $1 short. The stand off was in progress. Being from Acaster Malbis I asked the pauper if he’d accept a donation from an Englishman? He did. However, as with younger Australians, I find, this was not met with any grace. After a grunt of yes and “thanks” he continued to whinge to the owner.
After consumption I joined a charity bike ride. The local Rotary had organised a ‘loop’ bike ride and I found myself amongst it being directed hither and thither by hi viz clad marshalls, who I ignored. There were some ripped specimens in Rapha on Pinarellos with aero bars and then there were the occasional cyclists looking in distress as an incline approached. In fact as a marker as to where my fitness was I was holding my own despite the heavy bike and the 17kg I was carrying in luggage and water. I could tell this didn’t go well with the other cyclists.
The route steered the cyclists onto the main Pacific Highway. This says it all about the lack of roads for heading north. At one set of innumerable traffic lights there was a filter lane to turn left. I partially blocked this, I think, with my wide bike. When the delayed pick up truck, inconvenienced by this 5 second delay, did slip past I got a mouthful from the driver. I’m not completely sure what he was saying but it was either a cry of anxiety made by younger Australian males to cyclists to confirm their difficulty in living with their miniature genitalia or something about me blocking the road. (We both know it is the former). At this stage of the morning I was still with some other charity riders. They seemed to be used to this type of abuse and one wryly said “…he’s not happy”.
The Pacific Highway took me mountainously into the suburbs of Newcastle and to the beach.
I left the built up areas found my old friend the Pacific Highway and I was into the countryside on this fast and fairly flat but bleak road. I had decided to follow the road and then turn off for the coast again further up in pursuit of a campsite. The big challenge came in turning right across the dual carriageway. Traffic of mainly cars and not trucks, because it was Sunday, were flying along at 70 or 80mph. I made a dash and was soon trundling toward some idyllic little coastal towns.
I got to Hawks Nest at 6.05pm. The office was shut. This time I rang a number and left a message. However, no stroppy Nazis appeared for the rest of the evening. Slightly phased by illegal immigration I found a camper near the gate and he passed on the first pearl of wisdom of the evening. “It’s much easier to gain forgiveness than permission”. Emboldened I pitched my tent.
I then approached some other Aussies for the shower block door code. We struck up a conversation about the birds and road kill, as you do. The female of the trio was hauling up images and sounds of scrawny giant budgies on her laptop and an older bloke passed on advice I will always covet for the rest of my life. This was the second piece of wisdom ce soir.
“Never pick on a wombat as road kill”. Apparently it’s like hitting a block of concrete. I made a mental not to collide with one for the rest of the tour. This was one of several convivial conversations with the natives where I brought British sarcasm and superiority to some cheery banter. As they enjoyed my company they were all clutching cans of beer or giant glasses of red wine. Needless to say the drought (alcohol not rain) has hit them hard. Not one offered this weary tired Brit a drink (Incident 1). It was to become a habit.