Australia Blog 12
Rolling out of Coffs Harbour was hard! For all the engineering delight of The Pacific Highway in making sure it was as flat over hundreds of miles I found myself spinning the granny gears to leave the town behind. Being Saturday the traffic was lighter, which was just as well as a bicycle doing 4mph up a hill with no hard shoulder with trucks is not a great combination.
However after this rude awakening the usual pattern emerged of a sunny day with a large road in front of me and my lonely place on the hard shoulder. It has to be said that there is little debris on the shoulder bar stones. Road kill has stopped and the only other comment is that the odd bits of metal are usually originating from truck bodies or the straps they use to secure their load. In this fairly easy fast rolling situation I put on my headphones and listened to another podcast. After a good start, when she took over the show, Laura Laverne on Desert Island Discs has lapsed into interviewing fairly dull ‘woke’ worthies. I think the production team who I expect find the guest and then see if they’ve got an autobiography (for research purposes) all live in London have never been further than Netflix out of the capital. The mindset of all these guests is wearily unrepresentative of the nation.
I felt virtuous because I had eaten grandly the day before and was benefitting from all this fuel intake. It works. The error is to mistake ‘good days’ when you don’t eat copiously for the norm. I seemed to cycle well when I rode across the USA but I lost one and a half stones (c10kg). When I once told another more informed cyclist he commented that I must have lost muscle mass? It made me think again. The other challenge is the loss of appetite. At home after a bike ride in winter I’ll return ravenous to empty the cupboards and fridge. Here, rather than feeling hungry, I just know I must eat.
That being said when I got to Grafton I pulled into McDonalds. In line with the Master’s instructions I just look for calories. I had large fries and a chocolate milk shake.
The investment in the Pacific Highway is $billions and it is ongoing. At Grafton my dual carriageway ‘carpet’ disappeared. Here it was a regular two way road. The upgrade, being built, will bypass this area. I have to say that seeing the odd house, garden and building (!) was a pleasure but my concentration levels were heightened as the hard shoulder all but disappeared.
Riding with a reduced shoulder is difficult, however, when you add the Australian pre-occupation with reflectors or cat’s eyes near the white line it is even more difficult to steer the bike. Hitting one of these raised reflectors causes quite a jolt and could send me flying. I know you’re all very interested and I’ll take a photo of my nemeses. I should get the opportunity with several hundred thousand between here and Cairns.
I dropped into Maclean. I’d hoped to camp here but the site I found was for RV’s only. The town itself was a delight and I stopped at their supermarket.
Two young teenagers were hanging about outside and unusually for Australians I got a few questions about my travels. However this was a ‘warm up’ for have you got a spare dollar? “How much?”….
I was cycling along a river as I left Maclean, the Clarence. It was big and wide. So checking WikiCamps for another site I found something at Woombah. First I had to get got across the grid.
The Australians love their koalas. You can tell by the affectionate use of their name for cafes, shops, businesses etc. Due to their soporific immobility they were badly affected by the recent bush fires. Needless to say, like any other iconic Australian indigenous animal I hadn’t seen one. In fact I was starting to miss Victoria’s sheep and cattle (although not their bloody birds!)
Checking in was straightforward. I asked it I could pitch my tent with a roof above my head? This should, in principle, stop my little affair getting wet and make it quicker to pack and leave in the morning. It was forecast to rain heavily that night. She reluctantly agreed. I say ‘reluctantly’ because she thought I may stop other residents using the barbecue nearby. Frankly the site was mainly permanents and I think by about 6pm they had all gone ‘bye byes’ and were watching Aussie soaps inside away from the mosquitos.
Inside the tent I continued to watch ‘The Mule’ on Netflix but eventually I found myself watching the inside of my eyelids and switched it off zzzzzz….