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. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Hawks Nest to Forster, NSW – 54 miles→
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. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Budgewoi to Hawks Nest 84 miles→
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! Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Sydney to Budgewoi, NSW – 63 miles→
About 30 minutes late the bus swung into view and collected me off the deserted streets. The fare was $75 and I was instructed to give the driver another $30 cash for the extra luggage of the bike. He did pose the rhetorical question, as he pocketed the notes, “you don’t want a receipt for that, do you?” No I didn’t.
So this big swish bus returned to the Hume Freeway and ate up the miles to Sydney. The weather was so rainy that the bus had proceeded with prior caution and got to it’s final destination 30 minutes late. I tried to sleep but if I did I dozed an hour at best.
There were a couple of stops beforehand. At the stops the driver had called up the bus exhorting those who’d booked for these stops to wake up (it was early) and go. Not all got the message.
The driver, buried in rush hour traffic a few miles from the centre, received a request from a blurry eyed passenger for “Liverpool”. This stop had been an earlier stop 20 minutes ago. The driver looked straight ahead at the road and just said “Liverpool’s done mate!” The passenger stayed on his haunches next to the driver as if by his presence attempting to appeal to the driver’s better nature to turn round the large bus in this near traffic jam and head back. Obviously he didn’t.
It was 7am. I thought I’d take the bike to the hotel and try and leave it there until my return at the official check in time of 2pm. Before I got through my request the Receptionist said I could check in early ie. now. I was delighted not least because I could extract my wet tent from their bin liners and hang the tent and fly sheet up in the shower cubicle. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Sydney→
After the ride up the motorway to Wangaratta I thought I should abandon this easy and boring route and see something of Australia. So the next morning after following Master Blake’s instruction to take on board some protein I headed north again.
I left the M341 and pointed my chariot at Rutherglen. You may know this name from the red wines we quaff back in Blighty. It was an easy ride with the wind at my back; I started to witness a vista I was about to see for another two days. Large flat fields all rather baked and either containing stubble or odd pockets of sheep or cattle. In fact cattle are the major agricultural activity in this part of Australia. When I cycled past the sheep would scatter frightened. The horses more often stood their ground and peered at me as if I was the most interesting sight they could behold on this dull yet hot day (on this basis I’m not being reincarnated as Dobbin). Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Wangaratta to Gundagai, NSW→
The good news was that through literal exhaustion I cracked the jet lag problem and slept over 9 hours. The bad news was that I overslept and set off north about an hour and a half later than hoped! As it happened being Saturday the Melbourne traffic was reasonable with fewer trucks and vans. In the 22 miles it took me to leave the metropolis I obviously saw more of the city.
Just above the Central Business District the housing is mediocre in architecture (and upkeep). To add to this vista there are many empty unlet shops resplendent with graffiti. My route out of town was via my Garmin 830 Sat Nav. Like the town planners the routing it selects is to avoid cars and trucks wherever possible. This is sensible but tedious.
You are continually steered toward leisure bike trails and the number of crossings and traffic lights are innumerable. When you’re not bouncing up a kerb then you could be stood for 5 minutes at a busy junction whilst the cars filter through. Eventually the housing got more attractive, the neighbourhoods more cared for and the roads wider.
It’s a long way to Melbourne. I feel you may know this fact.
Two ‘back to back’ flights of 7 and then 12.5 hours respectively in Economy, through several times zones, is hard work. The Etihad baggage allowance of 35kg is excellent but it’s split over 23kg in the hold and the 12kg two in the cabin. To my relief I managed to get all I wanted to take into this quota but I did spend literally hours, back in York, weighing things and agonising whether to take it or leave it.
The flights were generally fine (about two hours of turbulence on the second flight, however, prevented any attempt at dropping off to sleep) but on the first flight I had talkative neighbours and on the second flight the art of communication was abruptly curtailed by a chap wearing a face mask and his wife wearing a burka. I learned a lot off the noisy neighbours on the first flight. One was heading to India for four weeks with his family to see relatives and escape the British weather. He regaled me with his wife’s need for a stent to be fitted on one holiday trip to the country of their birth. He talked of the stress of sorting this out at an Indian hospital. The practises and quality are variable. We both agreed how brilliant our NHS was. He’d come to Blackburn 58 years ago as an immigrant and worked for Phillips in the town.
The other chap was heading to Islamabad for two weddings that both lasted six days each. The six days I also surmise, due to religion, were without alcohol. How would you cope? This chap was an entrepreneur and we went through his Sheffield property empire, his former Indian restaurant project and his furniture shop. The chap was very modest but I think he enjoyed a conversation about business. My voicing that he might be viewed, by his Pakistani relatives, as ‘Mr Big’ and worth tapping up for a bob or two led him to quip “oh, I don’t tell them about all that!”
I learned nothing from the guy in the face mask other than the fact that he eventually took it off. In reality the chances of getting coronavirus, if it’s in the air, on a flight are as likely as that of being cooped up on a Japanese cruise liner. You have no chance of avoiding it.
Much to my relief the bike box appeared confirming that my steed had also made it Down Under.
We’ve all seen the Australian Border TV ‘fly on the wall’ series where various unfortunates and miscreants are stopped at Customs for having the wrong visa, importing half a succulent dead lizard or planning to convert an everyday package into its probable street value, as drugs, of c£100k. I was concerned that my oat energy bars might be deemed as dangerous and toxic or specks of mud on the underside of my mudguards would be identified as a bio hazard. Anyway there was no such problems and I proceeded through all the steps of Immigration and was soon sat in a taxi. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Melbourne→
My bike rides in the USA were such life defining events that still today not a single day goes by without something coming to mind about a person met, a hill climbed or a sight seen. I wanted to have one more epic ride.
Australia offers such an adventure. I’ve never been to Australia but have genuinely loved the country and people from afar. It seemed time to get acquainted.
I booked flights to go in January and even managed to work in some fabulous warm weather bike training in South Africa in November. Even better was that I contacted Louise Sutton at Leeds Beckett University about some proper nutrition for the 40 days away. Louis is a sports nutritionist/practitioner, as well as lecturer, and was interested to help. She set an MSc student, Cameron Blake, on working up a regime. All good? Not quite.
However back to South Africa. On our holiday Anna also cycled, she was having a ball (maybe seeing what my addiction was about). One day after an unbelievably windy stretch, which meant she was working hard, she clambered back onto the bus and looked out of the window. She saw wildlife but the number was doubled. She had double vision. We shortly found out it was Sixth Nerve Palsy and the prognosis was that it would eventually heal but it could be in a few weeks or a few months time. Anna was left to wear glasses with one lens frosted and instructed not drive. In every other respect she was absolutely fine. Obviously I couldn’t leave Anna without a chauffeur and so my plans and flights were cancelled. She described my decision and subsequent demeanour was like living with someone who was grieving!
As if by magic on one day in February the nerve started working and the double vision went! The hospital confirmed that all was well on February 13th and I’m now booked to fly to Melbourne on February 25th. The University has continued to offer help and I’ve had some brilliant guidance given and explained to me by Cameron. A tremendous boost. I will elaborate on this regime in future blogs as it can help all endurance cyclists. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Prologue→
They say you should never meet your heroes. I’m anxious because Australia is one of mine.
I’ve spent a lifetime enjoying the people, the sports competition, the apparent relaxed lifestyle, their humour, their music and many images of a beautiful country with often stunning scenery. However not least is my gratitude and admiration that so many have fought and died in wars for a freedom and way of life that I enjoy today in Yorkshire.
So what’s the plan? I exit Melbourne on February 28th and start my bike ride of 2,500 miles to Cairns. I’ll trundle through Sydney and Brisbane before coming to rest quite near the top of the country. That’ll be in early April. I will be riding solo – the Grey Nomad Goes Down Under! – and camping most of the way.
I expect I will find that but also a drifting ship that is slowly but inexorably moving away from Britain and our former Commonwealth. I’ll find a multiplicity of ethnicities, a tilt toward Asia and maybe the USA in its culture, cuisine and language. I’ll find some coastlines to die for and maybe some busy roads nearby that I will have to be careful to avoid dying on.
After spending a lot of money on an American Express credit card (in a previous calendar year) we earned a free flight, providing you paid for one. It seemed too good a deal not to fly far away and maximise the benefit. So we booked the flight in and out of South Africa but no other arrangements until my bride amazed me. This amazement was her desire to do a supported cycle tour around Cape Town. By supported we got given the bikes and a route. Our bags were hauled from one set of lodgings to the next.