Australia Blog 9
Hawks Nest looked a beautiful spot when I rode in the night before. Slightly cut off on a peninsula but an attractive small community with shops and facilities. All single storey buildings and close to a coastline that was unspoilt and a little wild. This also applied to the other local settlement called Tea Gardens. This looked even more up market with its moorings for boats.
After waking the next morning I strolled to the beach. The sound of the waves crashing last night had been my lullaby. Not that I needed singing to sleep as I was in the ‘Land of Nod’ in next to no time and didn’t wake for over 9 hours. That morning there were few people about and I can imagine living here on retreat.
I packed my tent slowly and then went across the road from the campsite for breakfast. I sat a while writing a blog and then returned to Reception to announce myself and make reparations for last night’s stay. No aggravation or kerfuffle, just a calm catch up on my details, took the money and I was away.
I went onto WikiCamp and left a review:
“Just sublime. Arrived as a cycle toured. Tremendous cook area for sorting out panniers. Terrific pitches. Great cafe opposite the site for breakfast. I may ask to be buried here.”
The long straight minor road north gave me little other than a vista of trees but every once in a while I’d note signs on my right for the beach. This was one such openings and the view was remarkable. Surely Australia (so far) at its most pristine and intoxicating. However I had places to be and and pedalled on to find the road ended abruptly with water and a ferry mooring. The craft was a small one with no distance of a crossing to make.
Here Brian from Cottingham, Hull extracted himself from a waiting car and ambled across for a chat. He saw ‘York’ on the back of my cycling jersey. He and his wife were in Australia for a niece’s wedding. They were now looking around before a weekend flight home. No sooner had our chat started than the ferry arrived. Walking purposefully toward me was the ferryman.
“Aww mayte, you don’t want to come this way the road is terrible and this route has lots of climbing”. He produced a map that showed an alternative route on an unpaved road through a forest that ‘cut a corner’ off my journey to Forster. Who was I to argue or know better? I turned around, with his map, and in reality, entered hell.
The unpaved road firstly had rough gravel and then it turned to baked mud, then it turned to rough rocks on the surface and then soft sand impossible to cycle on. This was 10 miles and it took forever. I was exhausted. I would advise to never listen to a non cyclist about a route. To add to this challenge was the infestation of mosquitos. They didn’t like the Factor 50 sunscreen on my legs and arms but they could bite me through my lycra shorts. I got bitten over 20 times. If that sounds fanciful then Anna has an image I sent of my derrière to show the attack. She’s got ‘previous’ about sharing information about my butt with strangers on my bike tours. I’m sure she’ll forward the image if you make a request.
I would have taken more photos of this misadventure as the track got worse but stopping was not possible without being consumed by the mites. In any case, we both know I’m a hero and that’s what counts.
It was like riding with your arse on fire. A true agony until the stings started to wear off. When I exited the track I was terribly worried I had damaged my tyres and wheels. We’ll see what occurs. Any hill climbing would have been preferable and in looking at his map later then the horrific path he sent me on was described as fit for ‘walking’ only.
(If you like then you can find me on Strava – my uploading the rides from my device and mobile is not a certain activity but so far I have managed to eventually upload the rides).
Back on tarmac I trundled on to get to Forster at around 5pm. The campsite was open and I went about my evening chores. Opposite me were a couple, in a camper van, who were intrigued at my bike and tent and we fell into conversation. They had two homes, had a van and had spent a lot of time in Europe. Travel was their bag. As I’m talking they are, of course, clutching achingly large glasses of red wine. Naturally none was proffered to me (Incident 2).
I had pitched next to the Cook Area – a small open shed arrangement with barbecue device, hobs, microwave, sink, fridge, kettle, benches etc. You get these on all Australian campsites. I was using it to keep dry (guess what, it was chucking it down). In the Area there were some older gentlemen. Apparently these men fought in Vietnam and they meet up twice a year. The war finished in 1975 and so there are some enduring friendships here.
I’m reading Max Hastings’ book on the war back in York and was interested to talk about it with them. They were happy to recount some experiences. They dwelt on the difference of US and British warfare tactics in the jungle. The British and other Commonwealth countries had fought communist insurgents in Malaya in the 1950s. It seemed a lot of the Australian and New Zealand warfare tactics were based on this conflict. The US had so much more equipment and helicopters. It meant a different scale and approach. The Brits might take three days to restore a broken bridge. The Americans took 25 minutes with two track layers.
For all that superiority then one of the gentlemen acknowledged that the North Vietnamese won and achieved all their objectives with the US, Australians and Kiwis despatched home. Before the end of the war there was considerable hostility to war back in Australia and the politicians were bringing them home in any case. The war was an inglorious couple of decades started by the French in Indochina and then it led, ultimately, to the departure of the Americans. So many dead and so little accomplished. I think it is lacking in respect to the fallen, and their loved ones, who followed their Government’s order in these war zones to quickly dismiss their efforts. However what we can agree is that every soldier, on the front line, who puts their life on the line for a politician’s decision deserves the best conditions before, during and after the conflict.
Whilst we’re discussing this and Australian cricket the old boys were boozing happily. My (lack of) drink problem was growing (Incident 3). From here I wondered into town to buy something at Subway and pick up a couple of beers for consumption back at the deserted Cook Area. As I’m sat there by myself on my iPad when some officious bloke wanders in and sees me sat there with my bike. Questions were asked along the lines of “have you just turned and are you squatting in the Cook Area?” Charming. (He didn’t have a German accent).