Australia Blog 10
Firstly, an apology. It has been brought to my attention that I may have caused offence by using Anglo Saxon to describe my buttocks (and the incendiary condition to which they had temporarily progressed) in Blog 9. This coarse lapse has caused distress to parts of Manchester and I worry this contagion may have spread further (even around the globe).
Anyway, I woke slowly and planned to get an early start. As I am busying myself around the tent the Heaven’s opened. I managed to remove the tent pegs quickly and move my small tent under shelter. However my ‘drying’ laundry about 100 metres away got very wet (again) despite my sprinting to recover it. In the shelter I packed things slowly waiting for this sudden and serious downpour to pass. It was early and few Aussies were around (probably still avoiding giving me a drink).
Whilst waiting one of the site cleaners sat with me, also awaiting a cessation. He rides a Harley and commented that he wouldn’t ride it in this weather! He also noted that the Pacific Highway not only provided faster travel up the coast but it was the only link between many of these settlements. It wasn’t possible to access all these small coastal towns any other way. That set my mind at rest that I was pursuing the correct routing option.
When it did stop I left the campsite and found a cafe for a bit of cooked breakfast in Forster. From here to a modern Woolworths for sustenance. Woolies in Oz is a supermarket chain and not the former beloved UK mecca where I bought LP’s and pick n’ mix.
The route to the Pacific Highway revealed the first casualty of the bush fires. You can see the burnt bark on these trees but you’ll also note the new growth. Also all the countryside was greener as I progressed north. This was in stark contrast to the parched and scrubby farmlands of Victoria.
The skies opened and I got very wet again. I got maybe wetter than I need have. I’d taken off my rain jacket between showers as it was too hot to ride in. When the rain started again I was simply in the wrong situation to stop, find the jacket, put it on and proceed. One of the benefits of the rain is a fall in temperature from the late 20°s to the late teens. This made cycling much easier and my average speed was over 13mph. Another implication was the need to drink less water and the restoration of my appetite.
However it was no fun riding over 60 miles in this. Also I was getting cold cycling against the wind when wet through. The Pacific Highway is a wondrous engineering creation with the reduction of gradients. I watch the often accompanying Old Pacific Highway or a service road rise and fall beside the Highway like a fun fair ride. Regular 7 or 8% climbs on a laden touring bike is not ‘fun’.
Eventually I dripped into the outskirts of Port Macquarie and dropped anchor at McDonalds. A few school children looked at me as if this dripping elderly relic on a touring bike with luggage had arrived from another planet.
It’s worth dwelling on the widespread use of the ‘Macquarie’ name in New South Wales. Major-General Lachlan Macquarie was the 5th Governor of NSW appointed by the British Government in the early 19th Century. He’s seen by many as the Father of Australia and even promoted the use of ‘Australia’ to identify the continent. His influence in Sydney is very apparent not least with the commissioning of many buildings and this ‘Port’ probably had his fingers across it. (The town was ‘discovered’ by the British in 1818. This type of statement must be galling to the aborigines who’d no doubt been here forever. The British used the place as a penal settlement for the worst of the convicts who’d re-offended since being shipped out). Macquarie was very entrepreneurial and an illustration is where he devised an arrangement with two businessmen to allow them to have exclusivity and a licence to make and sell rum. He used the revenue to build Sydney’s first proper hospital.
He went on to create a unique currency and reform the legislature and local militias. He became the longest serving Governor. However, some saw these changes as autocratic and eventually he was withdrawn to the UK and an investigation into his actions commissioned. He died during this process. He was born in the Hebrides and was buried there. It is, to me, unthinkable for a person born in the Hebrides in the 18th Century to make this journey? To the moon and back seems more probable.
I booked a hotel on Booking.com in Maccie Dees. I wasn’t camping in this weather. After food and hot chocolate I steered myself into the centre and checked in. I showered and dried out. Next the use of the laundry was a priority. Any clothes that spend a long time wet not only need drying but soon adopt a unique and unattractive fragrance. I choose to address when I can!
I toyed with spending a couple of nights here. Looking at the weather forecast it was scheduled to rain all the next day but I preferred to have a rest day in Coffs Harbour, a bigger place, and moved on.
Predictably it wasn’t raining as I pedalled away from my hotel in the morning. Port Macquarie is a large settlement and I trundled out slowly with the early morning traffic. I’d had a coffee and some toast at a nearby cafe and spent a little time on the blog.
I was happily behaving in a cycle lane when my early morning daydream was rudely interrupted by a delivery truck driving directly in front of me, across the cycle lane, and onto the side near a large gate for a yard. I was very shocked. As I’m processing my near brush with death I heard, through his open window, the truck driver chuntering away. Whoa, I thought, I AM NOT HAVING THAT! I brought my bike to a quick stop and headed with it for the truck driver’s door. We needed words. Clearly I’m not an imposing sight but everyone recognises ‘furious’ when they see it.
The driver quickly said “sorry” and that was that for me. I’d never see this wretch again and the matter was closed. I turned my bike round and headed for the road. However, he wittered, almost to himself “why don’t you have a flashing back light” and “there were parked cars also in the cycle lane blocking my sight”. I just thought “Aww mayte, just grow a pair…” If you make a mistake own it. Feeble.
By the time I got to the Highway I realised I’d forgotten to fill my water bottles. There would be no solutions once I got on the dual carriageway. So finding a factory near the slip road/ramp I popped in! The office worker at Reception was surprised to find a man clutching two water bidons when she looked up.
Back on the road it was the ‘same old same old’. Progress was good (and dry). I motored along but came off at the exit for Macksville. A town of 7,000 according to the sign and a town with a cafe. This solved lunch. I then continued a few miles to Nambucca Heads. Unhappily I found myself in the table top section of a mountain stage of The Tour de France. Not the finish I’d hoped for! Here there were a few camping solutions including another ‘Reflections’ camp site. It was the third night in four that I’d used this franchise. I asked if there was a loyalty scheme? This resulted in $25 off the $33 site fees. Quite pleased.
That being said the site was neglected. It did slightly retrieve itself with a nearby sports club. This offered a great schooner of Castlemaine XXXX. (A schooner is three quarters of a UK pint). It also had a Chinese restaurant and I quickly demolished Chicken Chow Mein. Back at the site, guess what? Biblical rain fell. It was in such volume that walking on the grass, to my tent, got my feet wet through my trainers. My little tent was waterproof and I soon drifted off.