Category Archives: Travel

Australia Bike Ride – Woombah to Brunswick Heads – 78 miles

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A chap, was wandering about near my tent doing some site maintenance/gardening. When asked, he said I might see kangaroos nibbling the grass the next morning. Excited, I arose next morning, with camera poised, to hopefully find Skippy having breakfast. As you have correctly deduced, Skippy was dining elsewhere.

My tent was not completely dry but it was better than having to endure torrential downpours. I had my porridge and packed everything away. Most mornings and nights I’ll catch up with Anna via a call on WhatsApp. As always I’m anxious to get off, I have a long way to go. So I hooked up the bluetooth headphones and set off cycling and talking to her. The road I was cycling on should have been quiet given that it was Sunday. It was, relatively, but it was only a two way road, due to roadworks, and the traffic was bunched. Our conversation was fine but I don’t think she was encouraged to join me on a future expedition as she heard the roar of the trucks or pick ups as they went past. However, this passed a pleasant 6 miles for me before we were done. It still seems more than odd that I’m starting the day and she’s finishing hers.

More bush fire damage (and regeneration)

I added to my sustenance in Woodburn. The weather now was squally and a morale boosting pie seemed a good move. This chap below is a ‘breakfast pie’. So lots of eggs and bacon? Well of course but sat on top of minced beef and gravy. Australia’s culinary imagination, as always, to the fore.

Woodburn

Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Woombah to Brunswick Heads – 78 miles

Australia Bike Ride – Coffs Harbour to Woombah – 88 miles

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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.

Tell me about it! I could never rely on one piece of information

Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Coffs Harbour to Woombah – 88 miles

Australia Bike Ride – Nambucca Heads to Coffs Harbour 31 miles & Rest Day

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I’d left 30 miles (to go) as a brief saunter into Coffs Harbour for my day off. Some saunter! I thought I’d leave the soulless motorway and take the Old Pacific Highway. My reward for this decision was lots of climbing. It does go to show that there is only really one route around here.

One of my companions unladen and at rest beside the road. Still looks imperious and frightening though!
Attractive residential estate in Urunga
Saw this near a public loo. A very common sight throughout Australia

Coffs Harbour made me immediately think of the USA (except for the uniquely Australian brutally hilly entrance and exit). This town or should I say city, according to my hosts, is again a classic settlement that services the surrounding large area with a Law Court, specialist medical services including surgeons, a library, accountants, lawyers, local government offices etc. The city’s layout is a long straight affair either side of the Pacific Highway with shops and even a mall in the centre and your car dealerships, exhaust replacements, sanitary ware distributors, car washes etc on the long drags at each end of town. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Nambucca Heads to Coffs Harbour 31 miles & Rest Day

Australia Bike Ride – Forster to Port Macquarie – 64 miles & Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads – 75 miles

 

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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.

Fire damage

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. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Forster to Port Macquarie – 64 miles & Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads – 75 miles

Australia Bike Ride – Hawks Nest to Forster, NSW – 54 miles

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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

Australia Bike Ride – Budgewoi to Hawks Nest 84 miles

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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

Australia Bike Ride – Sydney to Budgewoi, NSW – 63 miles

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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.

Early morning commuter

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.

View from the bridge (not the Opera House side!)

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

Australia Bike Ride – Sydney

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Gungarai to Sydney – Bus

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.

Not in focus (due to the light exposure)

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

Australia Bike Ride – Wangaratta to Gundagai, NSW

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Wangaratta to Walla Walla – 64 miles

Walla Walla to Wagga Wagga – 79 miles

Wagga Wagga to Gundagai – 51 miles

The ride so far

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.

Protein loading
Wangaratta

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

Australia Bike Ride – Melbourne to Wangaratta, Victoria

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Melbourne to Seymour, Victoria – 73 miles

Seymour to Wangaratta, Victoria – 94 miles

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.

Hurry whilst stocks last

Predictably the road system was now about moving people between cities rather than suburbs. This meant a ring road, flyovers and faster movement. It still wasn’t pleasant but I was delighted when I eventually escaped the ‘stop and start’ and could make some progress. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Melbourne to Wangaratta, Victoria